In Bolivia, the indigenous Cholita women are easily recognized by their bowler hats, pollera skirts and plaited braids. Cholitas have long been mistreated in this South American country, but that’s changing, thanks to anti-discrimination legislation and new progressive politicians. It’s also thanks to individuals like Teresa Huayta, the wrestling Cholita. This diminutive woman is a force of nature in the ring, proving with each match that it’s a badge of pride — not a mark of shame — to be a Cholita.
From 1991 to 1995, Serbian forces kept the city of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, under a brutal siege that made everyday living there deeply challenging. It was the longest siege in modern-day history, forcing citizens of the city, which had recently hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, into extreme measures to survive. One of the heroes of that horrific time was a forceful and resourceful American named Fred Cuny, who arranged ingenious water delivery into the city at great personal risk. An engineer and a humanitarian, Cuny, who died in Chechnya in 1995, is profiled in this film by Caroline Cuny, a young filmmaker and his niece.
In many ways, Sonita is like any other teenage girl: She loves music, dreams of being famous, and giggles and jokes with her friends. But Sonita, who grew up in a strictly Muslim household in Afghanistan before fleeing to Iran with her sister, faces challenges no young woman should have to experience. Her mother would like to sell her as a bride to a much older man in a tradition of forced marriage that has long trapped young Afghan girls in a cycle of oppression, forced domesticity and dashed ambitions.
Despite the pressures exerted by her family, home country and culture, Sonita doesn’t give in. Instead, she mounts a campaign of music and hope against child brides, dreams big and — with the help of unlikely allies — works hard to forge a new destiny for herself.
Sonita, a film by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, offers a triumphant portrait of a modern-day hero who risks it all to create a better life for herself — and for all Afghan girls.