Human Rights Watch Festival 2017: Our Review of ‘Girl Unbound’

Human Rights Watch Festival 2017: Our Review of ‘Girl Unbound’

This beautifully shot, thoughtfully scored and incredibly inspiring film by director Erin Heidenreich is centred on the life of Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a young squash player living between Toronto and her home in Waziristan. The film is one part the story of overcoming adversity and one part the struggle to survive against all odds.

In a place where women are second class citizens with little to no rights, Maria spent years trapped indoors, unable to train due to death threats from the Taliban. Even though she now resides in Canada, the threats to her family back home do not cease.

You get a great insight into the jarring juxtaposition of Maria’s life in Canada vs her life at home when she returns to visit her family. In spite of being under constant duress from the stress of their lack of safety and being under watch from all angles, Maria’s family remain strong, undeterred and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in such an impossible situation. Maria’s father Shamsul Quyam Wazir is a badass who tells off the Taliban when they call him to try to extort money and threaten to kill him and the entire family.  He even calls them “motherfuckers”. Maria’s sister Ayesha Gulalai is a celebrity in her own right as she is the youngest politician in Pakistan and works tirelessly for people displaced from their homes. This family is the epitome of punk rock and one can’t help but be in awe of that power.

In the trying times we live in, stories like Girl Unbound are vital to remind us that we cannot give up. Like Maria says “I am a warrior, I was born a warrior, I will die like a warrior.” This film is a warriors story.

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