Ballina Region for Refugees is holding a fundraising screening at Byron Theatre on Wednesday April 5, 7pm, to raise urgently needed funds for their community resettlement program. The film is And Still I Sing, an extraordinary documentary by Afghan filmmaker Fazila Amiri. It is the inspiring story of three female singers from Afghanistan who courageously use their voices to stand up for women’s rights despite threats of violence and even death.

Zahra and Sadiqa are contestants on Afghan Star – Afghanistan’s hit version of American Idol. They are mentored by trailblazing pop singer and Afghan Star judge Aryana Sayeed, fighting against oppression and misogyny as they compete in 2019 to become the show’s first female winner.

Pop music was banned by the Taliban during their previous reign from 1996-2001. As one of Afghanistan’s most famous pop stars, Sayeed received countless death threats and fled the country before returning after the regime’s fall. As well as being an Afghan Star judge she is also planning a concert in Kabul, hoping to unite the nation in celebration of the 100 th anniversary of independence from British rule. But the threat of violence is ever present, and it has to be organised through the right channels to ensure security, but without tipping off the Taliban who are gaining power throughout the country and moving ever closer to the capital.

The film has many moments that may surprise audiences seeing glimpses of a modern Afghan society blending with older traditional elements. A bowling alley in Kabul is a rather surreal sight to take in, with women freely having fun playing sport in a public space in the company of men. There are numerous other moments like this that may seem simple at first, but in retrospect, knowing how short-lived such freedoms were before the Taliban retook control in 2021 and banned them again is profound. Even the mere sight of Zahra and Sadiqa walking unaccompanied down the street now seems noteworthy.

And Still I Sing follows the heroic personal journeys of all three during the tumultuous time-frame leading up to and including the 2021 American troop withdrawal and Taliban takeover. This is a dramatic saga that will leave you riveted and inspired by female strength and the fortitude of brave Afghan women to keep on keeping on.

The proceeds for the event go to Ballina Region for Refugees’ community resettlement program. Two Syrian families are now living in Ballina and Byron shires, with a third family coming in the next couple of months. The group plan to help two more refugee families make new lives in our region before the end of 2023. Funds are needed for accommodation, transport, food and household expenses etc to assist the families integrate into their new communities.

And Still I Sing
7-8.45pm 5 April
Byron Theatre
Tickets are from $25 and available online