I’m very pleased that, for our annual Julydoscope free event at 7:00p.m. on July 16 at Discovery Green Park, we have landed one of the greatest arts films of the year, Sonita. This film picked up both the Jury and Audience prizes for World Cinema at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Sonita Alizadeh is the 17-year old Afghan teenager who, while living in Iran, made a viral rap video that protested her family’s efforts to sell her as a child bride. The film was directed by Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, whose Going Up the Stairs, about an untrained Iranian woman artist who attracts international attention, screened to great acclaim in HCAF 2012. Maghami is a creative and engaged director, and not a detached observer of Sonita’s plight. Her film is a wrenching, ultimately exhilarating experience that you don’t want to miss. Sonita is a fine musical talent, and the film’s performances will likely have people dancing in the park. However, she is an even more inspiring human rights activist. I had the pleasure of meeting her when I brought her to the Ashland Independent Film Festival this past April. When she appeared onstage at the end of the film, surprising the audience who had been unaware of her presence, Sonita stood and acknowledged the rapturous applause with tremendous dignity. She then answered questions eloquently and spoke passionately about Sonita’s Campaign to battle child marriage. She also connected with another Afghani refugee in the audience, Arash Seddique, who was the subject of another film at Ashland, Alexandria Bombach’s How We Choose, which you can check out here. It was clear that they both missed their homeland terribly, but were inspired by each other’s courage. Sonita’s musical studies are keeping her from attending Julydoscope, but I am working hard on attracting other filmmakers and artists who are subjects of their films to our annual festival in November. In the meantime, Julydoscope, our biggest annual event apart from the festival, will supplement the screening of Sonita with exciting live performances of dance, hip-hop, and spoken word, so you are in for a memorable night.