9 (Free) Films for Understanding Afghanistan and the Lives of Women Who Live There

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women

As the world watches the Taliban seize power in Afghanistan and women’s lives come under threat, Women Make Movies, a nonprofit distributor of independent films made by and about women, is making their Voices of Afghan Women film collection available to watch for free through September 12, 2021.

“As the rights and lives of women in Afghanistan are threatened, it is important for people all over the world to hear the voices of Afghan women,” said WMM Executive Director Debra Zimmerman. “The films in our collection, which have been curated over decades, tell the history of the country through the perspective of Afghan women and relate their lived experiences—their triumphs as well as their challenges. We hope people will watch these films and realize that we must support women’s human rights in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s history is one of suppression and violence and does not give one hope for their freedom.”

From the two-time Sundance Film Festival award-winning SONITA about a young rapper whose parents planned to sell as a child bride; to ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS, which won the World Cinema Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance, about Malalai Joya, an outspoken critic of the Taliban and one of 68 women elected to the Afghan parliament in 2005; to A THOUSAND GIRLS LIKE ME, the story of a woman fighting against sexual abuse and winning in the courts; to AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED about the first-ever team of women video journalists trained in Afghanistan—WMM honors the strength and courage of Afghan women in the face of religious intolerance and political persecution.

This selection of films sheds light on the history of this region and raises the voices and lived experiences of Afghan women.

In response to this critical moment, Women Make Movies is making the following films available to watch for free through September 12, 2021. Sign up to receive access to the films here.

All films are also available for virtual programming, to book for screenings, and to purchase on DVD or via Digital Site License. Many are also available on Kanopy and links are included below.


SONITA

A film by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami | Iran, Germany, Switzerland | 2015 | 91 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

A two-time Sundance Film Festival award-winner, SONITA tells the inspiring story of Sonita Alizadeh, an 18-year-old Afghan refugee in Iran who dreams of becoming a big-name rapper. But her family has a very different future planned for her: As a bride, she’s worth $9,000. An intimate portrait of creativity and womanhood.

Available to Watch on Kanopy


I AM THE REVOLUTION

A film by Benedetta Argentieri | Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq | 2019 | 72 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

A portrait of three women in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq leading the fight for leading the fight for gender equality. Politician Selay Ghaffar, one of the most wanted people in the world by the Taliban; Rojda Felat, a commander of the Dyrian Democratic Army; and Yanar Mohammed, who works for parliamentary reform in Iraq while running shelters for abused women.

Available to Watch on Kanopy


A THOUSAND GIRLS LIKE ME

A film by Sahra Mani | France, Afghanistan | 2018 | 80 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

An awe-inspiring verité documentary that tells the story of a young Afghan woman’s brave fight to seek justice and protect her children after experiencing years of abuse at the hands of her father. In 2014, she appeared on national television to publicly accuse her father, finally succeeding in bringing her case to court despite threats from male relatives and judges who labeled her a liar.

Available to Watch on Kanopy


PLAYING WITH FIRE: WOMEN ACTORS OF AFGHANISTAN

A film by Anneta Papathanassiou | Greece | 2014 | 58 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

In Afghanistan, women deciding to be actors make a dangerous choice. Banned under Taliban rule (1994-2001), Afghan theater experienced a comeback in the early 2000s, with many women at the forefront. This film captures art’s transformative power and the dangers these courageous women face doing the work they love.


ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS

A film by Eva Mulvad and Anja Al-Erhayem | Denmark | 2006 | 59 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

In September 2005, Afghanistan held its first parliamentary election in 35 years. Among the candidates for the 249 assembly seats was Malalai Joya, a courageous 27-year-old woman who had ignited outrage among hard-liners when she spoke out against corrupt warlords at the Grand Council of tribal elders in 2003. The film is a revolutionary portrait of this extraordinary freedom fighter and the way she won the hearts of voters, as well as a snapshot of life and politics in war-torn Afghanistan.

Available to Watch on Kanopy


SEARCH FOR FREEDOM

A film by Munizae Jahangir | Pakistan | 2003 | 54 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

Search for Freedom traces the dramatic social and political history of Afghanistan from the 1920s-2003 through the stories of four remarkable women: Princess Shafiqa Saroj, sister of the beloved progressive King Amanullah (1919-1929); Mairman Parveen, the first woman to sing on Afghan radio; Moshina, a war widow and survivor of a Taliban massacre; and Sohaila, an exiled medical student who ran underground schools for the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women during the Taliban regime.


UNVEILED VIEWS

A film by Alba Sotorra | Bosnia, Turkey, Pakistan | 2009 | 52 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

Five extraordinary women talk about their occupations, aspirations and the rights and status of women in their countries. Captured by Spanish filmmaker Alba Sotorra, who hitchhiked from Barcelona to Pakistan to shoot the film, these self-portraits of hope, heroism and pride challenge conventional Western stereotypes about women in the Islamic world.


AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED

A film by Brigitte Brault & Aina Women Filming Group | Afghanistan | 2003 | 52 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

Filmed by the first ever team of women video journalists trained in Afghanistan, this rare and uncompromising film explores the effects of the Taliban’s repressive rule and U.S.-sponsored bombing campaign on Afghani women. None of the 14 journalist trainees had ever traveled outside of Kabul and except for one, none had been able to study or pursue careers while the Taliban controlled their country.

Available to Watch on Kanopy


I AM A GIRL

A film by Rebecca Barry | Australia | 2013 | 88 Minutes

movies-films-afghanistan-afghan-women
(Courtesy of Women Make Movies)

There is a group of people in the world today who are more persecuted than anyone else, but they are not political or religious activists. They are girls. Being born a girl means you are more likely to be subjected to violence, disease, poverty and disadvantage than any other group on Earth. Meet 14-year-old Kimsey from Cambodia who was forced to sell her virginity at the age of 12, Habiba, a girl from Cameroon betrothed to a man 20 years her senior, and a young Afghan girl, Aziza, who will be shot if she goes to school.

Available to Watch on Kanopy

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

Up next:

About and

Kendra Hodgson is the Director of Strategy & Innovation at Women Make Movies. She is passionate about social justice, gender equity, and the power of stories. Before joining WMM, she spent eighteen years directing marketing and distribution at the Media Education Foundation, during which time she oversaw the transition to digital streaming. Kendra holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy.
Emily Abi-Kheirs is the Marketing & Engagement Manger at Women Make Movies. Emily is dedicated to uplifting and amplifying stories that are underrepresented in mainstream media through documentary film programming and distribution. Before joining WMM, she worked in a variety of capacities at WGBH and WORLD Channel. She currently serves on the board of Women in Film and Video New England and is an active member of Brown Girls Doc Mafia.