As we all watch the Taliban take over in Afghanistan, it’s important to know more about the country and the lives of Afghan women over the last 20 years – to see their struggles as well as their incredible triumphs. From the story of the first woman member of parliament to the first women video journalists in the country, from the story of a woman fighting against sexual abuse and winning in the courts to the triumph of Sonita over child marriage, Afghan woman have accomplished so much in a generation.
This selection of films from the WMM collection sheds light on the history of this region and, in particular, relates the voices and lived experiences of Afghan women.
These films are available for virtual programming.
In the Rumbling Belly of Motherland
Filmed as the U.S. planned for its September 2021 withdrawal of troops, IN THE RUMBLING BELLY OF MOTHERLAND documents an inspiring female-led news agency in Kabul, Afghanistan.Learn more
I Am the Revolution
A Portrait of Three Women in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq Leading the Fight for Gender EqualityLearn more
I Am a Girl
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. In I AM A GIRL, we meet 14-year-old Kimsey from Cambodia, forced to sell her virginity at 12; Aziza from Afghanistan, who will be shot if she goes to school; Breani, a teen living in a ghetto of NYC and dreaming of stardom; Katie from Australia, who is recovering from a suicide attempt; Habiba from Cameroon, betrothed to a man 20 years her senior; and Manu from Papua New Guinea, about to become a mother at 14 following her first sexual encounter. As they come of age in the way their culture dictates, we see remarkable heart-warming stories of resilience, bravery and humor. Nominated for four Australian Academy Awards including Best Documentary and Best Director, I AM A GIRL is an inspirational feature length documentary that paints a clear picture of the reality of what it means to be a girl in the 21st century. I AM A GIRL provides practical and ready-to-use resources for educators to address human rights and social justice issues affecting girls in the classroom. Girl Be Heard Education Guides for I AM A GIRL are three units of 25 total lesson plans aligned with US Common Core Curriculum (grades 9-12), to provide a practical and ready-to-use resource for teachers to address human rights and social justice issues affecting girls around the world. Girl Be Heard Education Guides for I AM A GIRL help teachers bring important human rights topics and a future of gender equality to the classroom. For more information, go to: http://girlbeheard.org/i-am-a-girl-education-guides.Learn more
A Thousand Girls Like Me
The story of a young Afghan woman’s brave fight for justice after experiencing years of abuse at the hands of her father.Learn more
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.Learn more
Playing With Fire: Women Actors Of Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, women deciding to be actors make a dangerous choice. Banned under Taliban rule (1994-2001), Afghan theater is experiencing a comeback with many women at the forefront. But with powerful forces of Islamic fundamentalism, a resurgent Taliban, and patriarchal traditions in play, actresses often face the harshest criticism and are even sometimes viewed as prostitutes. Socially ostracized, and pressured to abandon their careers, they receive beatings and death threats for them and their family. Some are forced to flee the country and some are even killed. PLAYING WITH FIRE introduces us to six courageous Afghan women who share their passions for acting, dreams, and difficult realities. They include Sajida, a student targeted by extremists; Monirah, besieged co-founder of an innovative women’s theater troupe; Tahera, forced into exile because of award-winning work at a theater festival; Roya, whose TV career brings her constant harassment; and Leena and Breshna, unprotected by their stage and motion picture fame. Filmmaker Anneta Papathanassiou exposes pervasive erosions of Afghan women’s rights. Her timely, eye-opening documentary perfectly captures art’s transformative power and the dangers these courageous women face to do the work they love.Learn more
In this revealing documentary five extraordinary women talk about their occupations, aspirations, and the rights and status of women in their Muslim countries. Bosnian Alma Suljevic risks her life daily clearing the landmines near Sarajevo that are war’s deadly legacy, then sells minefield earth in European art galleries so that she can continue her work. Eren Keskin, a longtime human rights activist and lawyer with music conservatory training, fights to change Turkey’s legal practices that perpetuate violence against women. Veteran filmmaker Rakshan Bani-Ehmad, true to her credo that art must “look, observe, and discover”, frequently pushes Iran’s censorship rules to the limit. Surrounded by conflict since childhood, young Afghani writer Moshagan Saadat creates brave, profoundly moving and memorable poems. And renowned Pakistani dancer Nahid Siddiqui, once forced to live outside her homeland when her work was banned, continues to perfect, renew, and teach her art form. Captured by Spanish filmmaker Alba Sotorra, who hitchhiked from Barcelona to Pakistan to shoot UNVEILED VIEWS, these self-portraits of hope, heroism, and pride challenge conventional Western stereotypes about women in the Islamic world.Learn more
Enemies of Happiness
"In September 2005, Afghanistan held its first parliamentary elections in 35 years. Among the candidates for 249 assembly seats was Malalai Joya, a courageous, controversial 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. ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS is a revelatory 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. Amidst vivid, poetic images of Joya's dusty Farah Province, the film tracks the final weeks of her campaign, when death threats restrict her movements. But the parade of trusting constituents arriving on her doorstep leaves no doubt that Joya is a popular hero. Among her visitors is a 100-year-old woman who treks two hours to offer loyalty and herbal medicine. King Solomon-style, Joya acts as folk mediator and advocate, adjudicating between a wife and her violent, drug-addicted husband and counseling a family forced to marry off their adolescent daughter to a much older man. Protected by armed guards, Joya heads to poor rural areas to address crowds of women, pledging to be their voice and ‘expose the enemies of peace, women, and democracy.’ In the presence of her fierce tenacity, we can imagine the future of an enlightened nation.” - Caroline Libresco, Sundance Film FestivalLearn more
Search for Freedom
SEARCH FOR FREEDOM traces the dramatic social and political history of Afghanistan from the 1920s to the present 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 RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women) during the Taliban regime. Through their personal stories, a surprising portrait of Afghanistan’s history emerges. Stunning archival footage from the early 20th century captures a time of remarkable progress and freedom for women that belies most Western perceptions. Other historical footage and Jahnagir’s incisive commentary reveal women’s realities and resilience under near constant occupation, first with the Soviet invasion, then under the mujahadeen and more recently under the repressive Taliban. Defying and clarifying the image of Afghan women as mere victims, SEARCH FOR FREEDOM offers a nuanced portrait of women who find choices where none are offered, who continue to find hope in the face of exile and isolation.Learn more
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 recent U.S.-sponsored bombing campaign on Afghani women. None of the fourteen journalist trainees had ever traveled outside Kabul. Except for one, none had been able to study or pursue careers while the Taliban controlled their country. Leaving Kabul behind for the more rural regions of the country, the filmmakers present heartbreaking footage of Hazara women whose lives have been decimated by recent events. With little food and no water or electricity, these women have been left to live in caves and fend for themselves, abandoned in the wake of the U.S. invasion. While committed to revealing such tragedies to the world, the filmmakers also manage to find moving examples of hope for the future. A poetic journey of self-discovery, AFGHANISTAN UNVEILED is a revelatory and profound reminder of the independent media’s power to bear witness and reveal truth.Learn more