Written by Alina Faulds
Nasrin Sotoudeh is a human rights lawyer fighting for marginalized people in Iran. A strong proponent of civil rights, Sotoudeh has represented countless people in her country including Baháʼís, a religious minority in Iran, children facing capital punishment, and women protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab laws. Nasrin directed by Jeff Kaufman and narrated by Olivia Colman documents Sotoudeh’s fight to make Iran a more just society.
Nasrin was largely filmed in secret over two years, with many of its camera crew wishing to remain anonymous in order to protect themselves from unjust charges at the hands of the Iranian government. The documentary is an intimate portrait of Nasrin Sotoudeh’s life, exploring not only her law career but her personal life as well. Much of Nasrin’s time is either spent in her law office or in court, a clear testament to the dedication she has to her job. In fact, Sotoudeh sees her law career as more than a job, it is a fight for justice. In court defending women from such charges as inciting prostitution and spreading propaganda against the state, simply for protesting to have the choice to wear the hijab or not, Sotoudeh is impassioned in her defense, her morals on full display as she argues for her clients.
In her office, Sotoudeh’s beliefs in law and justice are also very present. She often gives interviews in front of Lady Justice, a blindfolded statue holding a beam balance in one hand and a sword in another. Sotoudeh is fighting for Iran’s laws to properly represent this notion of blind justice, hoping to see the country shift towards a more democratic society filled with choices instead of punishment. Despite the constant arbitrary injustices Nasrin witnesses day after day she remains a positive and happy person. She hangs up drawings and words of motivation around her office. She’s always smiling around her loving husband Reza and their two children.
What makes Nasrin Sotoudeh such an interesting subject is the balance between her work and her life. She is loving and kind in each and every aspect of her life, driven by the belief that Iran can be a better place, for ethnic minorities, for religious minorities, for children, for women. Nasrin Soutoudeh knows this hopeful reality is possible and this is why she keeps fighting. The documentary captures this balance extraordinarily well as it shifts between Nasrin’s work and personal life in the same way Sotoudeh does. Nasrin also features a number of activists to further illustrate Sotoudeh’s incredible work. The audience is treated to words from Nasrin’s husband, women’s rights activists like Shirin Ebadi and Narges Mohammadi, along with filmmaker Jafar Panahi and many other Iranians that believe in Nasrin’s work. Olivia Colman occasionally narrates over archival footage of Sotoudeh or reads letters written by Nasrin to her family to fully round out her character.
Given Sotoudeh’s work, Nasrin should of course be classified as mandatory viewing. She is such a compelling figure and a hero for women’s rights. She teaches other women to fight for their rights. Director Jeff Kaufman illustrates this inspirational trait of Nasrin’s by showing other women protesting. One beautiful scene features different videos of women standing on podiums before pulling off their hijabs and wearing them like flags. Nasrin is unafraid to speak up for herself and other marginalized people, she’s been imprisoned in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison and still continues her fight.
Nasrin follows Sotoudeh until her second imprisonment in 2018. This is what makes Nasrin fundamental viewing. She is still serving prison time, sentenced to 38 years and 148 lashes for a number of charges including spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader. The documentary functions as a way to put Nasrin Sotoudeh’s story out there in hopes that people will continue to pressure the Iranian government for her release. Nasrin Sotoudeh is an incredible woman and the documentary on her life’s work is no different. She is someone that deserves to have her story told and someone who deserves to be freed.
You can petition for Nasrin’s release here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/take-action/iran-free-nasrin-satoudeh-now/
Nasrin will be available through DOCNYC Nov. 11th-19th 2020. Link below.
You can follow Alina Faulds’ Letterboxd, Twitter, or Instagram and view more of her work here.
Thanks to David Magdael & Associates for providing this film.
DOC NYC Website: https://www.docnyc.net/film/nasrin/
GlobeDocs Website: https://globedocs2020.eventive.org/welcome