Afghan girl turned rapper spreads awareness, hope


Abby Kempf

Living in Iran after fleeing worn-torn Afghanistan, Sonita Alizadeh is no stranger to fighting for what she wants. She works as a janitor with her sister and her niece in a less than modest home. The mattresses aren’t on bed frames, the paint peels of the walls and everything appears to be at least 30 years old. What is brand new and untainted is the fire that Sonita possesses.
sonita movie posterThis film follows her struggles to be come an acclaimed rapper and end the selling of young girls as child brides in Afghanistan , along with her relationship with filmmaker and director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami. The narrative is up close and personal, to say the least. We see Sonita in her home, playfully turning off the lights when she is done being interviewed for the day. We see her take the camera from Maghami and start filming and interviewing Maghami. Most importantly we see her rap to comfort her friend who will be sold as a bride in just a few months time.
Following Sonita’s life never gets tiring, as around each corner she has a new roadblock that she seemingly always perseveres through, even if she has some doubt. From evading her mother and brother’s desire to sell her for a sum of $9,000 to searching to find a recording studio daring and inexpensive enough to allow her to record her raps to even prove her identity and obtaining legal documents Sonita and Maghami work as a team to change the course Sonita was on starting at her birth.
Besides the obvious social justice message ‘Sonita’ tries to spread, the film also delves into the role of a director and how much she can interact and affect their subject. At one point Sonita’s mother is ready to sell her so that her brother can afford to buy a wife and Maghami and her team step in and pay her family $2,000 to give her six more months in Iran with her sister. During this time Maghami helps Sonita enter in a music video contest and finds her a scholarship to attend at arts high school in the United States.
[quote]’Sonita’ is a true masterpiece, an incredible narrative that brings turmoil in the Middle East to the forefront of every viewers’ mind.[/quote] Many scenes show Maghami, along with her team, trying to decide if they should help Sonita or not, whether their interference will destroy the film and take away from the realness of their documentary. Ultimately, humanity wins out and Maghami said she kept in her deliberation to show another dimension of the film and explain her choices.
Together Maghami and Sonita are quite the team. ‘Sonita’ is a true masterpiece, an incredible narrative that brings turmoil in the Middle East to the forefront of every viewers’ mind. Sonita herself is a driven, emotionally intelligent and gifted musician who could star in a five hour long film and the audience would still be captivated by her intellect, humility, humor, talent and passion.
[vimeo url=”″ width=”580″ height=”380″] [/vimeo] See ‘Sonita’ tomorrow at Jesse Auditorium at 12:30 pm.