Two-time Academy Award-winning Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker, journalist, and activist Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has once again shown her talent in highlighting the struggles of many young girls in Pakistan. ‘Sitara: Let Girls Dream’ surrounds the story of a young 14-year old girl named Pari and her 6-year-old younger sister Mehr. The animated short has no dialogue, and lets the visuals and music guide the story of a young girl forced into marriage, despite her personal ambitions to become a pilot. The story is told through the perspective of Mehr as she struggles to understand the pressures her older sister is facing, and the changes in her family dynamic.
As the film progresses the audience watches the emotional upheaval and dynamics of the family in question shift. Pari’s mother is resigned in her daughter’s fate and her brother outraged by their father’s decision. However, it is important to point out that Obaid-Chinoy ensures not to paint the father with the same misogynistic brush that you would expect. She is quick to show Pari’s father caring and loving for his daughter, and simply is following the traditions that he knows, which he believes will provide the best future for his child. After the wedding, his family outraged and upset by his decision, Pari’s father fully realises the gravity of his mistake and vows not to repeat it with Mehr and pushes her to fulfil her sister’s wish to become a pilot.
According to UNICEF, South Asia as a whole holds the highest rates of child marriage in the world; 45% of women reporting to have been married before the age of 18. Combined with a culture that prioritises the education and dreams of boys over girls, it is evident that urgent action is to be taken to protect these young girls from a life they did not choose. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s film, with executive producer Gloria Steinem, has been praised by ‘Chime for Change’ and ‘Equality Now’ for raising awareness, and through their help that the film was shown in over 100 schools in America and across Pakistan.
‘Sitara: Let Girls Dream’ is emotional and definitely a high quality short, as was expected by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, with a powerful message of female empowerment. The movie is available to watch on Netflix, released on 8th March 2020 (International Women’s Day).