On Sunday we headed to the Ritzy in Brixton to watch the film No Land’s Song, which is part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

The film is set in Iran and tells the story of Sara Najafi, a composer whose dream is to set up a show of all female soloists with the aim of reviving the female voice, which has long remained unheard in the country.

Since the revolution in 1979 women can either perform to an exclusively female audience or as back-up voices, never as soloists. Sara tries to overcome the restrictions by talking to the Ministry of Culture and religious authorities. She gets permission to put up a female performance as long as one male soloist is present in the band.

Happy with the arrangement she invites female singers from Paris to join the line-up. But a few days before the show things are at risk of falling apart. The Ministry of Culture places further restrictions to the performance which the band is unwilling to accept. Sara points out to them how disappointed the foreign artists are that the show is not going ahead, prompting them to rethink their decision and finally allowing the show.

The film ends with a stunning performance by a line-up of truly inspirational artists from different backgrounds, sanctioning a victory for freedom of expression.

Sadly, this was just a one-off, as no other female soloist performance has taken place since in Iran but it is a great demonstration of what can be achieved with will and determination.


Filmaker Ayat Najafi, who incidentally is Sara Najafi’s brother, joined the audience through Skype for a Q&A session, where he explained how he wanted to do a film on Iranian music while his sister wanted to set up a female soloist performance and how the two projects merged into this film. He also explained how he was able to film because nobody in Iran knew what he was doing and how authorities have chosen to keep quiet about the whole thing. The film has not been distributed in Iran.

The night ended with some beautiful Persian music as Light of Music members played traditional Iranian instruments, lead by a powerful female vocalist who sang about hope and freedom.


The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is on until the 27th of March. For more information visit their website: