Imagine being an Iranian girl in high school with the dream of becoming an astronaut. This is the theme of the documentary, “Sepideh”, which was featured at the “Educate to Empower Benefit Supporting Women's Education” during the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival yesterday.
This amazing documentary, written, produced and directed by Berit Madsen, is an in-depth look at the life of a teenage astronomer, overcoming cultural and financial obstacles and social norms in order to realize her dream of a college scholarship. Sepidah also writes letters to Albert Einstein and dreams of following in the footsteps of Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian-American woman to travel to outer space.
Beautiful close-ups of the night sky in a far-off rural province showing star clusters, constellations and shooting stars bring us a photographic bonus while these phenomena catch the frenzied excitement of students in a local astronomy club. Contrasted to this are family tensions about having enough money to live on, the death of Sepideh's devoted father and her mother's sometimes fickle support of her daughter's dreams.
Our heroine has many emotional struggles, but remains undeterred, truly believing that the world can be hers through education. This view is shared by ten women scholars throughout the Middle Eastern region who received scholarships to attend New College of Florida through Educate for Change and Daughters For Life. The latter organization founded by Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose three daughters were killed by Israeli shelling of their residence. Dr. Abuelaish introduced the film, saying that as a Palestinian doctor, he could identify with the heroine through his daughters' stuggles for an education in a war zone.
To honor their memory, Dr. Abuelaish wrote about his journey on the road to peace and human dignity in his book “I Shall Not Hate”. He has called for the people of the region to start talking to each other and his deepest hope is that his daughters will be the “last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”
Speaking on the empowerment of women, Abuelaish truly believes that, “The world is ours through education. A healthy and educated woman will raise healthy and educated children.” Signed copies of Dr. Abuelaish's book can be purchased at Bookstore 1 on Main Street in Sarasota.
So, if you thought you struggled to get an education, see “Sepideh” and buy Dr. Abuleaish's book, “I Shall Not Hate” to benefit the Daughters For Life. It will give you perspective on your life and world.