We Americans have automated and commodified war. We’ve done this so thoroughly that even out of the meager 12% of Americans who can even find Afghanistan on a map (26% for Iran), our instincts cause us to dismiss Iran and Afghanistan as those places we want to raze because “they hate us.” But what if someone in Iran or Afghanistan wants to make life better for both Americans and Iranians, but repressive cultural traditions, a totalitarian government, and the constant threat of suicide bombers reduces her to a statistic before she even can?
Sonita, a documentary by Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami (who comes to play an active role) tells the powerful story of Sonita Alizadeh, a budding Iranian rapper whose socially conscious lyrics aim to end the tradition of forced marriages and the struggles of families living in abject poverty. For any of a dozen reasons—none her fault and few under her control—Sonita could have become a statistic, just another battered teenage housewife of a wealthy Afghan man, a living deed sold off by her own family, for the price of a used car, so they could put food on the table or afford a daughter-in-law of their own. Through a long succession of miracles—including the creation and release of this film (courtesy of the feminist non-profit Women Make Movies)—Sonita has a chance to take control of her life and to make a difference for the people of Iran.