‘Sonita’ director screens film, speaks to students


Jenna Liu

Yesterday morning, students spilled into the Performing Arts Center to watch snippets of the documentary “Sonita,” which was chosen as the recipient of this year’s True Life Fund, and ask questions to the film’s director, Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami.  
The event came as part of this weekend’s True/False film festival, which kicks off tonight. The True Life Fund coordinator and RBHS alum, Allison Coffelt, said that “Sonita” was an especially appropriate film for high school audiences, given that the main subject, Sonita Alizadeh, was just 15 years old when the film was made.
“We thought that this film would be really great to take to high schools and the assemblies because [Alizadeh] is high school students’ age and her story really speaks to a lot of students,” Coffelt said. “This will be my fourth year working on the fund and my third year coordinating the whole thing. Each year we’ve been able to have an assembly at the high schools where we bring in the director.”
The True Life fund aims to raise money for the subjects depicted in one of the films presented at True/False each year. “Sonita”, which documents Alizadeh’s dream of becoming a rapper against the backdrop of her family’s efforts to sell her into marriage, follows 2016 Oscar nominee “The Look of Silence” as the True Life Fund recipient.
At yesterday’s presentation, director Maghami played clips from the film and detailed her filmmaking process; over the last few months, Maghami has traveled the United States to publicize “Sonita” at various festivals and events.
“I have shown this movie to a lot of middle school students in Netherlands, in Utah, at Sundance,” Maghami said. “I like it; it’s great.”
Senior Joy Wang, who sat in the audience during Maghami’s question and answer session, said she was able to gain a more thorough understanding of different cultures and worldviews through the experience.
“It gives you a more direct experience with the crisis and lack of rights for women in Afghanistan,” Wang said. “You get an inside on the everyday lives of these people and the struggle of people our age.”
Wang said the documentary also reinforced her goal of eventually working with girls like Alizadeh in foreign countries.
“[“Sonita”] inspired me a lot,” Wang said. “I’m really into international relations and human rights, and watching this movie gave me a better idea of what my job might be like.”
In addition to the professional inspiration Wang gained, she also said the film helped her become more aware of a reality beyond her own, a sentiment Coffelt echoed.
“I think one of the things that True/False does is it reminds us of how big our world is,” Coffelt said. “Sometimes it’s easy to go to your high school and have your whole world be your high school and not really know that there are all these things going on beyond your periphery. I think that having a film like “Sonita” here reminds students that there’s a bigger world and that they can make a difference.”
While Alizadeh herself could not be at the presentation because of a speaking engagement at the World Bank, she will be present at the Question and Answer session for every “Sonita” screening over the True/False weekend. Visit the schedule for a list of dates and times.