A film by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Iran/Germany/Switzerland | 2015 | 91 minutes | Color | DVD | English/Farsi | Subtitled | Order No. 161180


Two-time Sundance Film Festival award winner SONITA tells the inspiring story of Sonita Alizadeh, an 18-year-old Afghan refugee in Iran, who thinks of Michael Jackson and Rihanna as her spiritual parents and dreams of becoming a big-name rapper. For the time being, her only fans are the other teenage girls in a Tehran shelter. And her family has a very different future planned for her: as a bride she's worth $9,000. Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (GOING UP THE STAIRS) poignantly shifts from observer to participant altering expectations, as Sonita's story unfolds in this personal and joyful portrait. An intimate portrait of creativity and womanhood, SONITA highlights the rarely seen intricacies and shifting contrasts of Iranian society through the lens of an artist who is defining the next generation.



Video Librarian

***** "Triumphant documentary...Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami’s absorbing portrait of a refugee in Iran is endlessly surprising..."

Nigel M. Smith The Guardian

"Inspiring…a certified crowdpleaser."

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

"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

"Her plight is sadly common, but Sonita herself—a fiery and opportunistic fighter wrapped in a head scarf—is anything but."

Enid Spitz Willamette Week

“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

“4 ****”

Leslie Felperin The Guardian

"Wrenching, delicately told documentary."

Leslie Felperin The Guardian

"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

"4 ****"

Antonia Quirke Financial Times

"… you feel Ghaemmaghami’s supercharged will as strongly as the stubborn and talented Sonita’s. The older woman urging the younger to lead a bigger, more beautiful and enjoyable life. To be happy."

Antonia Quirke Financial Times

"The film metamorphoses from a moving and intimate profile of an exceptional young woman into a cinematic treatise on the role of the filmmaker in nonfiction filmmaking."

Christopher Llewellyn Reed Hammer to Nail

"Profound movie."

Christopher Llewellyn Reed Hammer to Nail

"Exhilarating documentary…Initially entertaining and effervescent, it jolts the viewer into realizing that what is on the screen is not just a performance to be vicariously enjoyed, but the life of a real person whose fate is being determined."

Peter Keough The Boston Globe


  • IDFA, Audience Award and DOC U Award
  • Sundance Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize – World Documentary and Audience Award – World Documentary
  • True/False Film Festival, True Life Fund Award
  • Sarasota Film Festival, Best In World Cinema Audience Award
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, The Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award
  • Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, Jury Award, Best Feature Documentary
  • One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, AVAST Foundation Audience Award
  • Montclair Film Festival, Audience Award, MFF Junior Jury Special Jury Prize for Social Justice
  • Sheffield Doc/Fest, Youth Jury Award
  • Aspen Ideas Festival
  • Dallas International Film Festival
  • Wisconsin Film Festival
  • Montclair Film Festival
  • Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival
  • Salem Documentary Film Festival
  • Greenwich Film Festival
  • Ashland International Film Festival
  • Geneva International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights
  • Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New York & London
  • San Francisco Film Festival
  • Ambulante Film Festival
  • Boulder International Film Festival
  • Florida Film Festival
  • Seattle International Film Festival
  • Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • Cleveland International Film Festival
  • Ann Arbor Film Festival
  • Nantucket Film Festival


Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

Born in Tehran in 1973, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami studied cinema and animation at Tehran Art University. She is the author of “Animated Documentary, a New Way to Express,” which is a product of her research on the role of animation in documentary film. She has directed six documentaries, including CYANOSIS (2007), PIGEON FANCIERS (2000), BORN 20 MINUTES LATE (2010), A LOUD SOILITUDE (2010), and GOING UP THE STAIRS (2011). Her latest film, SONITA (2015) won numerous awards including the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the IDFA Amsterdam Film Festival and both the Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary and the Audience Award for World Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

Ghaemmaghami thinks of filmmaking, particularly in the documentary world, as something that can never be seen as an objective act; she understands human stories as inherently subjective and personal, as filmmakers are always making artistic decisions during the process of filmmaking, therefore creating something new that has been influenced by their presence. Along this line, Ghaemmaghami gave the subject of SONITA money in order to escape her future as a teenage bride. Sonita went on to go to an American high school on scholarship. (03/19)


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