In the months leading up to the Taliban takeover in 2021, Afghanistan’s youngest female mayor, Zarifa Ghafari, deals with danger, uncertainty, and personal turmoil.
In Her Hands
Tamana Ayazi, Marcel Mettelsiefen
In August 2021, the world watched as Kabul fell to the Taliban. Scenes of chaos, anxiety, and fear dominated the media. In Her Hands follows the 19 months of lead-up to this through the eyes of Zarifa Ghafari, appointed as the youngest female mayor of Afghanistan at age 26. Her story is interwoven with those of two other key figures: her loyal bodyguard, Massoum; and an antagonist to her ideas, a commander in the Taliban army, Musafer. The varying trajectories of their lives give perspective on the complexities of the 20-year conflict in the region.
The directing team brings together the talents of Afghan filmmaker Tamana Ayazi and Marcel Mettelsiefen, who gain unique access. We watch Zarifa navigate multiple layers of political and personal turmoil, including a tense relationship with her father (a leader in the Afghan military) and a dilemma over working with her bodyguard — all against the constant threat of assasination.
As a staunch advocate for women’s rights, Zarifa’s call to action is “drop the weapon and take up a pen.” (Her autobiography will be published this fall.) We see her making strides in her fiercely patriarchal town outside Kabul. But as the US troops prepare to withdraw, uncertainty builds and the Taliban increase attacks on political officials. It becomes clear Zarifia and her fiancé, Bashir, will be in mortal danger if they stay in the country. Zarifa’s courage has already won her attention in human-rights circles, and now this film will bring her powerful story to the rest of the world.