Sonita Directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Sonita Directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami
Courtesy of Hot Docs
Born out of socio-economic struggle and the dismantling of neighbourhoods for corporate profit, hip-hop culture has played an invaluable role in not only challenging social norms, but also shaping the identities of its participants. For Sonita Alizadeh, the 18-year-old Afghani refugee at the centre of Sonita, hip-hop culture creates more than her identity — it's also her salvation. Fixated on becoming as successful as Rihanna, Sonita finds refuge in rap music throughout her most dire moments — evictions, poverty, navigating an oppressive society and challenging traditional family values. While living as an undocumented illegal alien in Iran, Sonita is sold into an arranged marriage and summoned to come home.
It's at this point that Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami comes from behind the lens to ease the sense of hopelessness, by paying her family to hold off on the marriage. This breaking moment leads to Sonita writing the song "Brides for Sale," which doesn't just to speak to her story, but to those of dozens of girls living in her Tehran shelter who've now become her fans. With an interesting dynamic between director and subject, Maghami takes Sonita to America to pursue a scholarship and finally gives the charismatic young girl the freedom she's dreamed of — unfortunately, it quickly becomes evident that it won't be a smooth transition.

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