Girl Unbound: The War to be Her is an empowering and eye-opening documentary that shines a light on gender inequality.
The film takes place in Waziristan, one of the Tribal Areas of Pakistan described as, “one of the most dangerous places on earth.” This inspiring documentary focuses on professional female squash player Maria Toorpakai, who is resisting the values of the Taliban and striving for gender equality within the sports industry. In this region of Pakistan, girls are prohibited from participating in sports.
Determined to live her passion and fulfill her goal of becoming a world-class squash player, Maria began presenting herself as a boy. Unfortunately her identity was revealed after her star rose, and as she started to mature physically, the Taliban quickly initiated death threats against her and her family.
via Toronto International Film Festival
Girl Unbound: War to be Her was filmed by independent film director Erin Heidenreich. According to an interview from Filmmaker Magazine, Heidenreich was approached by the film’s producer to direct the documentary. “Everything she [Maria] had to go through, including death threats, just to do the thing she loved as a girl really struck a chord with me,” said Heidenreich. “The film really took off creatively when it became imperative to capture the people of the Tribal Areas who are seen by the rest of the world as terrorists. I wanted to show the human side of the other people living there as well as all that Maria’s family goes through to survive.”
Girl Unbound: The War to be Her unveils a truth behind pre-existing issues of gender inequality that continue to occur in society. The film was screened at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on April 4, 2017 as part of the 14th annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival, co-presented by TIFF and Human Rights Watch.
Here’s the Rundown on Girl Unbound:
Gender Equality: Maria demands gender equity throughout the film. She defies the rules of the Taliban and embodies the idea that females should be given equal opportunities, not only in sports, but in all aspects of society.
Perseverance: By pursuing her passion for playing squash and straying from the values of the region, the safety of both Maria and her family is put at risk. Despite this, Maria tackles these threats head on and prominently demonstrates strength, determination, and courage. Not only does she empower youth in Waziristan, but she also reminds viewers to live freely and to fight for what they believe in.
Finding Your Identity: Because Maria lived as a male for half of her life, she has adapted to certain aspects of the male lifestyle. As Maria transitioned into her adolescent years, she discovered her inner-self, who she is regardless of how she presents herself to the outside.