An 18-year-old Afghan illegal immigrant in Tehran, Iran, fights to be an artist while her family wants to sell her off as a bride.

Women of the World

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami was born in Tehran and studied filmmaking and animation in Tehran Art University. Her published essays and research include the book, Animated Documentary: A New Way to Express, published in Persian in 2009. Her short documentary works include Pigeon Fanciers (2000), A Loud Solitude (2010), Born 20 Minutes Late (2010), Going Up the Stairs Show more (2011), and the animated documentary Cyanosis (2007). Show less

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The Film

18-year-old Sonita is an undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant living in the poor suburbs of Tehran. She is a feisty, spirited, young woman who fights to live the way she wants, as an artist, singer, and musician in spite of all her obstacles she confronts in Iran and her conservative patriarchal family. In harsh contrast to her goal is the plan of her family – strongly advanced by her mother – to make her a bride and sell her to a new family. The price right now is about $9,000.

Sonita builds around her struggle to escape a forced marriage, as she fights with the dilemma of not losing her family, but still be able to build a life of her own. In order to do so, she needs to obtain resident status, and to record and make video clips for her songs on a miniscule budget. Through this, we witness her family and their dilemmas and get to know her friends and colleagues who are also child laborers in the NGO called “House of Affection.”

Will Sonita be forced into marriage? Will she succeed in recording her songs? Will her family manage to take her back to Afghanistan? The film unfolds in Sonita’s home, at the NGO and in music studios in and around Tehran. She then needs to travel to Afghanistan in order to get ID papers, because there might be a future in the United States.