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Film Fest Opinion Reviews SCAD

‘Facing the Dragon’ shows the harsh reality of two women in Afghanistan

District Staff

By Erin Krochmalny 

It seems impossible for a woman to make a documentary about the lives of two women in a country hostile to women, but filmmaker Sedika Mojadidi succeeded in doing so. “Facing the Dragon” portrays the harsh reality of two women, Nilofar and Shakila, as they balance being moms with working. However, politician Nilofar and journalist Shakila face real danger and threats in Afghanistan as the Taliban’s influence rise and the U.S. forces withdraw. “Facing the Dragon” is a reminder of how far women still have to go in the world and how dangerous it can be to seek equality.

Interspersed between interviews with the two subjects is actual footage going about their daily lives, only daily life for Nilofar and Shakila include threats of violence to themselves and others. Mojadidi showed the normalcy of the danger and conflict Nilofar and Shakila faced. Through it all, the women did what they could. It was inspiring to witness their courage. Mojadidi showed how their struggles as working mothers are both familiar and yet alien at the same time.

Nilofar required police guard as she traveled through the country. The Taliban had a growing hold in many areas, including her home district. As a woman politician working to both improve her government and women’s rights, Nilofar was a threat to them. Shakila also required security around her at times and faced similar threats as she reported on the news. Shakila was warned against going to one film location by her boss. Women in the streets said they could not talk to her as they would be killed for doing so.

Mojadidi included actual footage filmed by the Taliban that disturbed viewers. That paired with witnessing aftermaths of bombings, one of which directly targeted one of the women Sedika followed, brought the stark reality these women, and everyone in Afghanistan, face.

These were the problems Shakila and Nilofar were striving to fix in their country, but some prices were too high. Your heart breaks as the women need to make hard decisions for themselves and their family. Nilofar’s neighbor’s son was kidnapped for a day and night as they believed the boy was Nilofar’s son. As a result, Nilofar sent her children to live with her husband in Australia. After the bombing of one her news station’s media bus, killing many coworkers, and a Facebook post saying she was no more, Shakila decided it would be safer for her and her children move to Germany. It was a reminder that Shakila and Nilofar’s work as public figures put them at risk in Afghanistan, something that should not be the reality.

Mojadidi was dedicated to filming their lives and accurately capturing the weight of the events the women lived. All the emotions and crises that the two women experienced translated into her film and allowed us, the audience, to feel it in the most effective way.