Directed by Fazila Amiri, And Still I Sing is set against the backdrop of Afghan Star, Afghanistan’s hottest televised singing competition. For the last thirteen years, Afghan Star has provided fresh faces on the pop scene—but all of the winners have been men. Even so, for young women such as Zahra, superstardom is emulated in Star’s judge Aryana Sayeed, Afghanistan’s controversial but most celebrated pop star. Yearning to be like her idol, Zahra enters into the competition with the unlikely dream of following in her footsteps.
Fueled by the battle between feminine courage and toxic masculinity, Still I Sing is a terrifying vision of a world where women matter little and are told to remain hidden in it on the sidelines. Although countless young women have set their sights on stardom, the film also points to the toxicity of a culture that has been dominated by men. Inspired by Sayeed, there is a growing call for women’s rights amongst the people of the nation. However, centuries worth of oppression have made this seemingly simple battle an incredibly treacherous one as artists find themselves subject to death threats and acts of violence.
In this way, there’s a bravery that is shown within the simple act of performance. Although female performers such as Sayeed are consistently told to be silent, their performances take on a deeper political meaning. Whether it’s a televised performance or live concert, what would be considered in other nations as a night of entertainment becomes a dangerous act of rebellion. For example, as she plans an epic concert during Afghanistan’s upcoming celebration, Sayeed is faced with attacks of violence simply for the way that she challenges the status quo. With an air of empowerment, her voice and persona are representative of the freedom of women’s rights and kick against the darkness. As a result, these performances take on additional meaning by sending a message to the patriarchy that women will not be silenced any longer.
And Still I Sing is now playing at HotDocs ‘22. For screening information, click here.