By John Sooja,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Inspiring docu shows power of education, hope; violence.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Strong positive messages of teamwork, courage, perseverance, and communication. All the girls and many of their mothers speak words of encouragement, positivity, and hope.
Positive Role Models
All the girls work hard to be successful robotics competitors, models for future girls in Afghanistan, and examples of how perseverance, courage, and teamwork can change the world's assumptions about girls in Afghanistan.
The cast is from Afghanistan, mostly high school-age girls on a robotics team who excel in STEM.
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Violence & Scariness
Footage from many bombing attacks shows bloody aftermaths, blood on walls and the ground, and dead bodies being carried off to hospitals. These attacks occur in a school, mosque, and hospital, among other locations. Many people cry, wail, and mourn the dead. A teenage girl's father dies in one of the blasts, and he is mourned. Gunfire can be heard in some scenes. Some teens play a violent video game with guns and shooting.
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Products & Purchases
References to the 2005 animated film, Robots.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Afghan Dreamers is a documentary about high school girls in Afghanistan forming a robotics team to compete in competitions around the world. Entering their first global robotics competition for high schoolers, the girls compete with over 160 countries and win the silver medal award for Courageous Achievement. In 2017, the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, told the girls that they are "an inspiration to us all." Facing incredible danger as their fame and notoriety grows, the team continues to compete in competitions until they graduate. But in the fall of 2017, the Taliban takes over the Afghanistan government and bans girls over 12 from going to school. The Taliban also issues death warrants for the girls on the robotics team because they conspired with infidels, the Taliban argues. The girls on the team show great leadership, communication, courage, and teamwork as they try to mentor younger generations of girls who look up to them. There are moments of bloody violence shown in news footage covering various bombing attacks on a school, mosque, hospital, and other locations. Live bombings aren't shown, but the aftermaths of the attacks are. Blood is shown on walls and on floors (including in a school classroom and in a nursery in a hospital), and dead bodies are shown being carried out.
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What's the Story?
In AFGHAN DREAMERS, an all-girls high school robotics team is formed, and they enter their first global competition, competing against over 160 other countries. Facing discrimination from the U.S. and in their own country, the girls stay courageous and show great teamwork and perseverance.
Is It Any Good?
This documentary elegantly shows these Afghan girls' journey into the world of global robotics competition, but more is made of what they represent than the actual competitions they compete in. In Afghan Dreamers, the importance and benefits of education and women's rights are front, center, and clear, and the girls on the robotics team give great voice to how important their work is. Naturally confident and courageous while facing an incredibly adult danger, the girls learn, study, practice, and compete in STEM-based robotics work and quickly become semi-famous for doing so. But the more recognized they become, the more danger they face leaving for school each day. After one particular suicide bombing kills one of the girl's fathers, they are blamed for the blast by neighbors who believe that if they hadn't been so bold to seek an education and compete in robotics, the bombing wouldn't have happened. Later, when the Taliban seizes power, they demand that the girls be killed because of their actions.
Also facing discrimination from the U.S. in 2017, when the U.S. State Department twice refused their visa applications with no explanation (only relenting when 32 U.S. Congress members demanded they be accepted) and discrimination from their own nation (Some people in Afghanistan still don't think girls should be able to go to school or work), the girls show remarkable courage and integrity throughout. They professionally and inspiringly speak to many news outlets, audiences, and younger Afghan girls who look up to them. Unfortunately, after the Taliban took over the Afghanistan government in the fall of 2021, they have since reimplemented many policies that don't allow much freedom for women or girls (like letting them get an education or work, let alone a STEM education or leave their homes without a man accompanying them). This fact makes the ending of this docu inevitably sad in that only in this brief period between 2017 and 2020 did these girls enjoy the freedom to learn and go to school in their own country, compete in robotics competitions around the world, and model for younger Afghan girls the importance and benefits of education and the freedom to get an education. When younger Afghan girls talk to the robotics team, they tell them they want to be doctors or teachers, but it's currently hard to imagine this happening, given the current state of things for women in Afghanistan.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about violence in documentaries. How did the violence in Afghan Dreamers make you feel? Do you think the filmmakers should have shown this violence or not? Why?
How does the all-girls robotics team show great teamwork, courage, perseverance, and communication?
Given that the Taliban took over the Afghan government in 2021, what do you think has happened to the chances of future girls' robotics teams? What about education for girls generally?
- On DVD or streaming: May 23, 2023
- Cast: Fatemah Qaderyan, Lida Azizi, Somaya Faruqi, Kawsar Roshan
- Director: David Greenwald
- Studio: Paramount+
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, STEM, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Robots, Science and Nature
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 72 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: May 25, 2023
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