Afghan-Born Soccer Star Nadia Nadim’s Life Journey Explored

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Anissa Bonnefont, who latest film “Wonder Boy” won a Special Jury prize at Tribeca in 2020, has recently completed “Nadia,” a timely documentary feature about Nadia Nadim, the Afghan-born Danish soccer star.

Federation Entertainment produced the film with Echo Studio, in association with France’s Canal Plus, which commissioned it.

Penned by Bonnefont and Edith Chapin, the cinematic documentary tells the extraordinary life journey of Nadim, who was born and raised in Afghanistan. After the Taliban executed her father in 2000, when she was only eight years old, Nadia, along with her four sisters and mother, escaped Kabul by foot. The family sought asylum in Denmark where Nadia eventually became a champion on the national soccer team. She then joined the Paris-Saint-Germain women’s professional team and she’s currently planning at the Racing Louisville Football Club.

Bonnefont followed Nadim for 18 months in 2020 and 2021 in France, where the athlete was playing for the Paris team, and in Denmark, where her family lives. Shooting ended on June 4, 2021, when the PSG women’s football team won the French Championship. Within a few weeks, the Taliban had returned to power in Kabul.

Bonnefont’s documentary combines the terror looming over Afghanistan’s future with the story of a fugitive whose success surpasses everyone’s hopes. The movie, lensed by “Wonder Boy” cinematographer Thomas Brémond and edited by Guerric Catalan, also sheds light on other refugees fleeing from the country.

During the months that Bonnefont spent by her side, Nadim yearned to return to Afghanistan to find out the true story of her father’s murder. Nadim’s mother, Hamida, and her aunt Aryana, a pop star and host of the Afghanistan’s most popular TV show, tried to dissuade her from making this dangerous trip. Ultimately, Nadim’s plan to return was crushed by the Talibans’ return to rule. But Nadim isn’t done dreaming big, she’s currently studying to become a reconstructive surgeon.

“When I met Nadia, it became evident to me that I had to tell her story. The path this inspiring young woman has taken gives hope to the youth of this generation and while raising consciousness amongst us all,” says Bonnefont.

“We, too, could become exiles and refugees, if terror should take over our country and through this film we want to spread a message of hope and trust to an even broader public,” adds the filmmaker.

Myriam Weil, Federation Entertainment’s head of documentary, says she was approached by Chapin two years ago with the idea of making a documentary about Nadim’s epic story. “I was immediately drawn to Nadia’s story and in the same week I watched ‘Wonder Boy’ and thought, Anissa must direct this film,” says Weil.

“The film shows Nadim’s emotional journey as she did everything she could to travel back to Afghanistan and was prevented from doing so, first because of the pandemic, and then because of attacks perpetrated by ISIS, and the Talibans who are primarily targeting women,” explains the producer.

She points out the film is “universal and strikes a chord because it talks about the fate of many refugees who can never go back to the home country and come to the harsh realisation that it’s no longer their home.” Weil says ultimately “Nadia” delivers a positive depiction of refugees which is close to reality and isn’t ‘poverty porn.’

Weil says that when the feature started filming, they “were aware that the situation in Afghanistan was going downhill fast.” “We knew it was dangerous. We were far from imagining that at the end of the film, 20 years after Nadia Nadim was forced to flee, the tragedy would be repeated,” says Weil. The executive said this documentary is an “opportunity to understand that history is currently in a loop and children today are at risk to go through similar trauma.”

Jean-François Camilleri, the president of Echo Studio, says “Nadia” is “a source of inspiration for the general public.”

“It is a call to action and an essential resource for organizations that help refugees and the less-fortunate in France and elsewhere; it’s a special opportunity to build an impactful campaign and give these organizations the visibility and support they need,” adds Camilleri.

“Nadia” was selected at the Sunny Side of the Doc in June 2021 in the Women Talent Hub strand, and will premiere at the Rendez-Vous de Biarritz international TV market and will be presented by Federation at Mipcom in October. Federation, Echo Studio and Canal Plus are planning an impact campaign to help non-profit organisations which give funding to help women and children in Afghanistan, as well as refugees arriving in France.

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