Sunday, June 18, 1:30 p.m., Castro Theatre: West Coast première
Waziristan is part of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, part of a region straddling the border between the nation-states of Pakistan and Afghanistan, nominally controlled by those national governments but in most respects under the control of the tribes that have lived there for millennia. The Taliban are ubiquitous, reinforcing Stone Age concepts of the role of women. Shamsul chose to raise his family in a very different way, treating his sons and daughters equally, encouraging them to excel in education and other pursuits, and giving them an example of standing firmly for what they believe is right and true. This documentary focuses primarily on the daughter Maria, who is the world champion in women’s squash, but her sister Ayesha is also notable, the youngest politician in Pakistan.
Maria disguised herself as a boy to have the basic freedom to play sports, but when Taliban death threats against her whole family drove her into seclusion, she made her way to Toronto to continue her training. She returns to Pakistan to be with her family, but also to represent Pakistan at an international competition in Islamabad. With certainty of purpose and no small amount of courage, the family stands together in defiance of the Taliban takfiris. This is a well-made documentary about a sporting competitor who is far more than that in the example she sets. Must see. If you would rather watch paint dry than watch sports of any kind, don't worry, we see only brief highlights of Maria’s matches.
Note: although Maria and her family set an excellent example for children, there are a couple of moments of strong language and threats of violence that make this film unsuitable for very young children. I would place it somewhere in the “PG” to “PG–13” ratings range.
• IMDb page • Official website • trailer •