This is the amazing, at times harrowing, simply astonishing story of a woman who would never give up, no matter the risks.
The first Muslim woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi has inspired millions around the globe through her work as a human rights lawyer defending women and children against a brutal regime in Iran.
Now the film, "Until We Are Free", tells her story of courage and defiance in the face of a government out to destroy her, her family, and her mission: to bring justice to the people and the country she loves.
Best known in this country as the lawyer working tirelessly on behalf of Canadian photojournalist, Zara Kazemi- raped, tortured and murdered in Iran- the film, "Until We Are Free", tells of the struggle of one woman against the system. It is a gripping story.
For years the Islamic Republic tried to intimidate Ebadi, but after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power in 2005, the censorship and persecution intensified. The government wiretapped Ebadi's phones, bugged her law firm, sent spies to follow her, harassed her colleagues, detained her daughter, and arrested her sister on trumped-up charges. It shut down her lectures, fired up mobs to attack her home, seized her offices, and nailed a death threat to her front door.
Despite finding herself living under circumstances reminiscent of a spy novel, nothing could keep Ebadi from speaking out and standing up for human dignity. The Iranian government would end up taking everything from Shirin Ebadi- her marriage, her home, her legal career, even her Nobel Prize - but the one thing it could never steal was her spirit to fight for justice and a better future.
Freedom and women – the two words together often do not match. Throughout history, it is the women who have suffered and felt miserable. They have been treated like subordinates to their male guardians and have often been tortured. But with time the awareness came and the women started to claim their power back. The world moved forward even though the condition of women did not see much improvement.
While Freedom is natural to some people, it is a dream to many Iranian people! In her documentary “Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free”, Dawn Glifford Engle has shown the bitter reality of a part of our world. While the rest of the world has tasted freedom after many years of relentless struggle, Iran is still fighting its own war. The pain and trauma of the Iranian women is echoed throughout the documentary and through Shirin’s narrations!
The movie opens up in a world full of brightness and hope and then we witness Ebadi’s speech where she emphasises on the atrocities committed against women and children in Iran.
The movie then focuses on Shirin’s life in Iran and as her narrative goes on, we see how the benevolent and rich traditions of Persia are slowly changing into a malevolent and regressive regime. Through Shirin’s eyes we see her childhood. It was a world full of happiness, freedom and most importantly respect and love for one another. Shirin was blessed with parents who never differentiated between a boy and a girl, and always provided all of them equal opportunities. Her dream world came to an end soon and she understood how the time was changing. After graduating from the law school her struggle to voice her opinion began.
Shirin’s life gives us a glimpse of a world we have never seen or known properly. What the women of Iran experience is brutal, it is cruel enough to end their dreams and hopes. In this world full of opportunities and scopes, Iran is still going backwards.Shirin remarks how crucial and progressive the history of Persia has been and now all those are long gone. She laments the cultural heritage and criticises the dark time that is still prevailing over Iran. Shirin’s fight for her voice and freedom has made her an alien to her own land, she had to leave her own soil and root in a foreign country. Even after that, Shirin has been courageous enough to fight for what is right.
Through this movie Dawn Glifford Engleshows us the reality of a part of the world that stands as a sign of our ignorance. The movie also shows excerpts from Shirin’s life and attempts to highlight how Iran is still torn and suffering. Dawn’s documentary is a reminder that the world is falling and it is time we gather against the atrocities.
Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free is just as much about its titular subject as it is about the history of Iran. Written and directed by Dawn Gifford Engle, the documentary uses new interviews, archival footage, and animation to explain why the former judge turned advocate barrister is such an inspiration to women worldwide. Does the film capably spotlight Ebadi’s storied legacy, or is it just a glorified Wikipedia article?
Born in 1947, Ebadi studied hard and became one of the first female judges in Iran. Unfortunately, after Iranian Revolution in 1979, all female judges were demoted to administrative positions. This was the beginning of her political advocacy, which got more intense as the government became more tyrannical. Eventually, she founded the Defenders of Human Rights Center in 2001.
Of course, all her political work and the high-profile pro bono cases she took on made Ebadi a target of the government at all turns. She had been singled out for assassination and imprisoned for dissent, among several other plans to silence her.But, while slow to happen, Ebadi has witnessed a change in her country for the better.
“…made Ebadi a target of the government at all turns.”
Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free looks at why that change is crucial to Iran. Yes, fundamental human rights should be extended to everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. See, once a part of the Persian Empire, Iran was much more forward-thinking and progressive. In Ebadi’s lifetime, she has seen freedoms eroded away until civilians cannot handle it anymore. If Engel will make you empathize with every human on the planet by the time her documentary ends.
Aside from the obvious inspirational aspect of the film, it is very handsomely produced. The animated segments detail Ebadi’s early life and career and are very well-drawn. Interviews are intercut with shots of Iran’s landscape or blooming flowers. It is all quite pretty to take in.
While it is expansive, the film feels a little long. Segments begin to feel a bit repetitive for ten or so minutes. Though, once a plot to kill Ebadi comes to light, the pace tightens right up. As such, the movie is never boring exactly, but some parts don’t capture the audience’s attention as well as others.
Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Freeis an exhaustive overview of a remarkable woman and what she means to her country. Ebadi is the first Muslim woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, an honor she wholeheartedly deserves. While the film gets a little repetitive around the 40-minute mark, it regains momentum quickly. Using animation and cutaways allows Engle to make a film that feels complete and not a dry lecture on its subject.
For more information about Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free, visit the Peace Jam website.