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Review: And Still I Sing

October 21, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The documentary And Still I Sing follows three female singers in Afghanistan; the controversial pop star Aryana Sayeed who has courted a backlash in her country for speaking out in support of women’s rights, and Zahra Elham and Sadiqa Madagar, who are both contestants on the American Idol-esque reality show Afghan Star.

Zahra and Sadiqa are both vying to be the first female winner in the competition’s thirteen year history, with Aryana serving as both a mentor and the show’s sole female judge. The film unfolds during the 14th season of Afghan Star as Zahra and Sadiqa both compete for the crown, with the women facing misogynistic comments and threats.

This is all taking place amidst the politically tumultuous backdrop of peace talks between United States and the Taliban, and the film builds to the Taliban sweeping back into power for the first time in two decades, following President Biden’s hasty withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in 2021. Directed by Afghan-Canadian filmmaker Fazila Amiri, And Still I Sing offers a human look at how the reversal of women’s rights in the country under Taliban rule impacts them personally.

Amiri does a decent job of highlighting Sayeed’s work as an activist, which has led to calls for her to be banned from the country, as well as the stories of the other two women who are trying to make a name for themselves amidst the unstable political climate in their home country. There is a rousing quality to the competition scenes as we become invested in Zahra and Sadiqa’s success, but Amiri’s film has a a harrowing undercurrent to it as well as Aryana, Zahra and Sadiqa come to realize their place in the country is threatened under it’s reversal to theocratic, totalitarian rule.

And Still I Sing is opening today in limited release at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

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