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19th edition of documentary film festival DocsBarcelona kicks off

The DocsBarcelona 2016 film festival opened this year’s edition with the documentary ‘Sonita’ by Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami on Wednesday. The film is about an eighteen-year-old Afghan girl after which the film is named, who emigrates illegally to Iran to pursue her dream of being a hip hop artist, despite her mother’s opposition. The DocsBarcelona film festival is running until the 29th of May, during which one can see 46 films from 28 countries at the multidisciplinary institution and museum Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and the Aribau Club cinema. While keeping in mind the important theme of refugees, the documentary also raises the important issue of what role a film should play in the subject it is filming. “Documentary films reflect the society we live in, and in ten years they will reflect what is happening in society”, reflected the director of DocsBarcelona, Juan Gonzàlez.

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25 May 2016 08:22 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (CNA).- The documentary film festival DocsBarcelona opened the doors to its nineteenth edition with the documentary ‘Sonita’ by Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami on Wednesday. The film is about the dreams and difficulties of Sonita, an eighteen-year-old Afghan girl who enters Iran without papers and wants to devote herself to hip hop. However, her dreams are opposed by her Afghan family who want to marry her and sell her for 9,000 euros. DocsBarcelona is in Barcelona until the 29th of May, in an edition which will present 46 films from 28 countries at the multidisciplinary institution and museum Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and the Aribau Club cinema. The film raises the important question of the role that the documentary plays in the story it films, and director Ghaem Maghami added that “witnessing the crime of seeing a girl being sold for 9,000 euros made me ask myself what I was doing”. “Documentary films reflect the society we live in, and in ten years they will reflect what is happening in society”, reflected the director of DocsBarcelona, Juan Gonzàlez.


The DocsBarcelona film festival began with a powerful story of Sonita, a girl who enters Iran to realise her dream of making hip hop music, and encounters the strong opposition of her family. This documentary has kicked off the 19th edition of the film festival, which will host 46 films from 28 countries, shown at the multidisciplinary institution and museum Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and the Aribau Club cinema. The festival will be in action until the 29th of May.

The documentary ‘Sonita’ is named after its young protagonist, an eighteen-year-old Afghan girl who is shown trying to make a life for herself without papers in the suburbs of Tehran, Iran. She has a young, energetic and vital spirit, one that encourages her to fight for her dream of becoming a rapper, despite the strong opposition of her family. Her passion for music collides with her mother’s plan to marry her in exchange for 9,000 euros. During the course of the documentary, we are afforded a glimmer of hope, thanks to the success of the YouTube video ‘Brides for Sale’, a song inspired by this struggle. 

The director of DocsBarcelona, Juan Gonzàlez, explained in a statement to CNA that ‘Sonita’ is about the youthful dream of someone who wants to dedicate themselves to music, which is difficult being born in Afghanistan.

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, the director of the documentary, explained that when she first met Sonita she didn’t originally think to make a documentary about her. Rather, she decided to help her, since she showed a talent for music and high potential. “I was interested in the fact that the girls who find themselves in this situation do not have dreams”, divulged the director. Ghaem Maghami has also defined the character as a fighter. “I wanted to make a film about the rather obscure situation of people who live without hope or means, and the clash between Afghan family traditions and rap was interesting”.

One of the interesting debates that the film opens is whether a documentary film should participate in the story, or whether it should simply record what happens. “When a documentary filmmaker sees the problems that people have, he or she is happy, and when I saw (Sonita’s) mother coming to take her away I was happy because in it, I saw a dramatic situation, but I was also worried, and I asked myself what I should do”. Ghaem Maghami admitted that from there on, she began to think about her role in the story, as she did not want to appear as the protagonist’s saviour, either. “Witnessing the crime of seeing a girl being sold for 9,000 euros made me ask myself what I was doing”.

Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami

The film’s director was born in Iran and studied film and animation at Tehran Art University. Her research trials are included in the book ‘Animated Documentary: A New Way to Express’, published in Farsi in 2009. Her work includes the documentaries ‘Pigeon Fanciers’ (2000), ‘A Loud Solitude’ (2010), ‘Born 20 Minutes Late’ (2010), ‘Going Up the Stairs’ (2011) and the animated documentary ‘Cyanosis’ (2007).

DocsBarcelona 2016 

On the other hand, the director of DocsBarcelona, Juan Gonzàlez noted that DocsBarcelona is very open and deals with, for example, intimate subjects linked to refugees. DocsBarcelona 2016 has a total of 46 films, all from very different perspectives. “Documentary films reflect the society we live in, and in ten years they will reflect what is happening in society”, he added.

Number of tickets sold in advance increases by 50%

“The first data we have compiled is that advance ticket sales have increased by 50%, the number of reservations for the opening have increased by 20%, and we have a waiting list. The inputs are being very good”, Gonzàlez stated. In this regard, he stressed that the documentary is experiencing a golden age everywhere, and every time there are more and better documentaries that reach more people in different ways. “It's growing and it (still) has a long way to go”.

A new feature of the DocsBarcelona edition of 2016 is ‘Latitud DocsBarcelona’, a new competitive section that brings together a selection of documentaries from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, with a prize of its own. Of the 30 titles that make up the ‘Official Section’, ‘Latitud DocsBarcelona’ and ‘Special Sessions’, eight are Catalan productions.

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  • Image of the documentary 'Bakur' , to be shown at DocsBarcelona 2016 (by ACN)

  • Image of the documentary 'Bakur' , to be shown at DocsBarcelona 2016 (by ACN)