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Hot Docs 2018: Commander Arian: A Story of Women, War and Freedom

01 May 2018 / by Alexx Bryant (author)
Commander Arian playing at Hot Docs (photo: )
Commander Arian playing at Hot Docs

When it comes to war, women are usually seen as victims. But what if they could be viewed as brave warriors reclaiming their freedom? In her new feature documentary Commander Arian: A Story of Women, War and Freedom, director Alba Sotorra explores this feminist perspective.

The film follows Arian Afrin, a commander in the Kurdish Women’s Protection Unit, known locally as the YPJ. The YPJ, a battalion of female soldiers, fights against ISIS and other groups that threaten the freedom of their people. During a siege, Commander Arian is shot five times, leaving her with debilitating disabilities. As she struggles with her new life, Arian has to find a way in which she can still fight for her people.

Commander Arian is an incredibly moving film. It's heart lies within its main subject Arian, who is an inspirational yet deeply damaged character. This documentary also stands out from a lot other films about war as it is told through the perspective of a female soldier. This decision is refreshing as it redefines the image of women in relation to the Syrian war.

However, don’t go into this film expecting an action packed war documentary. Instead, Commander Arian is very much a character study. Viewers will become well acquainted with Arian and how she views the world. They will see her struggle to achieve freedom but also inspire younger generations of YPJ soldiers.

Commander Arian is constantly switching between past and present, which can be confusing at times. Therefore, this a film for an observant viewer who can appreciate a complex storyline. It will also appeal to anyone wanting to learn more about the Kurdish Women's Protection Unit.

Commander Arian: A Story of Women, War and Freedom will be playing at the Aga Khan Museum as part of the 2018 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival on Sunday May 6. The film will be screening at 6:15 PM along with the short documentary The Guests. For more information go to:

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Alexx Bryant

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