Sonita Alizadeh, an 18-year-old girl from Afghanistan, dreamed from a young age of becoming a singer.
Admiring artists like Michael Jackson and Rihanna was a way for her to deal with the harsh life she had working as a cleaner in a refugee camp in Tehran, where she found herself at the age of 14.
Iranian director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami met her there, when Sonita’s family decided to take her back to Afghanistan to sell her as a bride for $9,000.
In an unexpected turn, the director herself decided to pay Sonita’s mother $2,000 to keep her in Iran.
The director’s decision to get directly involved with her subject sparked some debate, but Sonita came out of the experience stronger, as shown in a song she wrote, titled “Brides for Sale.”
“Like all other girls, I am caged. I am seen as a sheep grown only to be devoured,” Sonita raps about the trials of girls sold as brides in the video, directed by Ghaemmaghami and showcasing her transformation from a fragile teenager into a powerful voice advocating women’s rights in her country.
The documentary “Sonita,” which won both the jury prize and the audience award for world documentary in the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, is being screened by the CineDoc festival in a number of Greek cities in October.
This story was originally published in HuffPost Greece. It has been translated and adapted for HuffPost.