CDS Filmmaker Award Committee

This April Elena served on the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award committee for the 2016 Full Frame Film Festival and watched all the films in the New Docs category. There were several amazing documentaries in this pool, but one film stood out to all the committee members: Sonita. This unique, inspiring and brave film follows Sonita, a young Afghan refuge living in Iran as she pursues her dream to become a rapper and fights against her family’s attempts to sell her as a bride.

Here is the committee’s statement:

The CDS Filmmaker Award goes to filmmakers who best connect the power of the documentary tradition with community life, and who best lead viewers to understand and reflect on themselves and the world portrayed. 

This year’s winner achieved something important and rare: it made the members of the jury see themselves in both the subject and the filmmaker. The jury identified with the subject’s intense desire to achieve her dream as well as the complex and emotional decision the filmmaker had to make on whether to intervene. The filmmaker’s sincere engagement and collaborative spirit made this story more compelling. We also appreciated the transparency in the way that the filmmaker interacted with the subject, in spite of raising the question of transgression. We felt like it was courageous and not contrived. The filmmaker deftly handled that delicate issue by allowing it to be included in the film without hiding it. 

The film built up great suspense and contained multiple moments of intensity and intimacy, reflecting the access and trust the filmmaker received. It feels timely in our interactive world to think in new ways about the relationship between filmmaker and subject. Her allowance of the grey and complicated areas onto the screen is mesmerizing. At some point, we all become participants in their story. 

The jury was struck by this film’s compelling subject and found themselves  —long after viewing– still rooting for this year’s CDS Filmmaker Award winner, Sonita, made by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami.

If you get the chance to see it, we highly recommend it!