Sonita, a teenager, is a talented rapper and an indomitable force, in spite of all her obstacles she confronts in Iran and her conservative family. She is, however, an undocumented Afghan refugee in Tehran, and her family has other plans for her. In this gripping documentary, her dream of living abroad is about to come true just as her family plan on sending her back home to get married to a much older man who will give them a lump sum of money, which would allow Sonita's brother to find a bride. While she must now attempt to overcome numerous personal and bureaucratic hurdles to avoid what seems inevitable, the film's director, Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami is also confronted with a dilemma: should she interfere to help her or let things unfold in front of her eyes and of the camera?
Sundance Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award (World Documentary)
Audience Award and Doc U Award (Youth Jury), IDFA 2015
Youth Jury Award, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2016
AVAST Foundation Audience Award, One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival
Human Rights Watch Film Festival
IndieMusic Award, IndieLisboa
Audience Award, One World 2016
Available to rent from
Curzon Home Cinema
Pre-order the DVD from
2000 Pigeon Fanciers
2010 A Loud Solitude
2010 Born 20 Minutes Late
2011 Going Up the Stairs: Portrait of an Unlikely Iranian Artist
|A FILM BY||Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami|
|CO-PRODUCERS||Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, Aline Schmid|
|CREATIVE PRODUCER||Kerstin Krieg|
|DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY||Behrouz Badrouj, Ali Mohammad Ghasemi, Mohammad Haddadi|
|Arastoo Givi, Torben Bernard, Parviz Arefi, Ala Mohseni|
|SCORE MUSIC||Moritz Denis|
|MUSIC LAYOUT||Guillaume Wuhrmann|
|ORIGINAL SONGS BY||Sonita Alizadeh, Sepandarmaz Elahi Shirazi|
|LINE PRODUCER GERMANY||Cornelia Kellers|
|LINE PRODUCER IRAN||Morteza Ebrahimi, Hosein Beshgard|
|LINE PRODUCER AFGHANISTAN||Ghodsieh Shahnematollahi, Sahra Karimi|
|LINE PRODUCER SWITZERLAND||Catherine Muller|
|COMMISSIONING EDITORS||NDR/arte: Claudia Cellarius; RTS Radio Télévision Suisse,|
|Unité des films Documentaires: Irène Challand, Gaspard Lamunière;|
|SRG SSR: Sven Wälti, Gregory Catella|
|A PRODUCTION BY TAG/TRAUM|
|IN CO-PRODUCTION WITH INTERMEZZO FILM,|
|ROKHSAREH GHAEM MAGHAMI,NDR, RTS|
|Radio Télévision Suisse, SRG SSR, DR|
|IN CO-OPERATION WITH arte|
|FUNDED BY Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, BKM,|
|Bundesamt für Kultur (EDI), Cinéforom|
|und Loterie Romande, Chicken & Egg Pictures,|
|IDFA Bertha Fund|
|SPECIAL THANKS TO The Asian Pitch Commissioners,|
|Public Television Service Foundation,|
|Korean Broadcasting System|
|© TAG/TRAUM – INTERMEZZO –|
|ROKHSAREH GHAEMMAGHAMI 2015|
|91 minutes Cert PG|
"Triumphant documentary...Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s absorbing portrait of a refugee in Iran is endlessly surprising..."
Nigel M. Smith, The Guardian
"A warm, uplifting but often challenging film – a compelling human drama packed with searching questions about artistic responsibility and the nature of charity."
Tom Huddleston, Time Out
"This affecting documentary follows the fortunes of an Afghan teenager living in exile whose family want to sell her into marriage…the kid is a force of nature, and it’s impossible not to be swept along by the powerful tide of her story."Leslie Felperin, The Guardian
"Sonita wants to be a rapper. No other medium could contain the quantity and rush of her lyrics — about voting, about pitiless fathers, about the threat of an old and strange husband. “I’m like a sheep grown/on whom others will dine” she sings, rocking, while the engineers in the Tehran recording studio look on nervously."
Antonia Quirke, The Financial Times
"An Afghan teen uses rap to attack the practice of selling daughters into marriage in this powerful documentary… Profile of an irrepressible wordsmithJonathan Romney, The Observer
" Inspiring and disturbing."
Kate Muir, The Times
"The film is at its most complicated during the interventions made by Ghaemmaghami into the action. Off-screen voices warn her that she shouldn’t interfere but she makes no pretence of editorial impartiality...Ghaemmaghami could be accused of steering the action to make a stronger film but her attempt to save Sonita from being married off is far more important than that."Ryan Gilbey, The New Statesman
"This extraordinary documentary could almost be a work of fiction."
Steve Rose, Guardian Guide
"Inspiring…a certified crowdpleaser...Sonita is engaging, articulate, intelligent and wholly admirable in her audacious campaigning against forced marriage in particular and misogynistic Islam in general…""
Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter
"SONITA is the deftly done story of a young Afghan woman in Tehran who dreams of rap stardom while her family plans to sell her as a bride."
Kenneth Turan, LA Times
"Everyone falls in love with Sonita in this film…"
Fionnuala Halligan, Screen Daily
“Maghami is such a skilled, aware filmmaker that her action, beyond its obvious humanitarian value, falls into a glorious tradition of meta-filmmaking in Iranian cinema - it immediately conjured Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up."
Erin Teachman, DC Metro Theater Arts