Saturday, October 24, 2009

Long Form Documentary: Leila’s story (Listening journal- Entry #3)

Producer: Julian Ruck

Narrator: Siobhann Tighe

Title: Assignment – Leila’s story 6 Dec 2007

Length: 24 minutes.

Link to BBC documentaries:

Link to podcast:

The documentary tells the story of an Iranian girl who was forced into prostitution and sold for sex by her parents at the age of 9 and was later sentenced to death at 18. It sheds light on Modern Iran, the legal system there, the legal concept of child abuse and how the Iranian laws remain confused and inequitable to women and girls.

It started off by sound bites from the end of the documentary, which I thought was an excellent way to keep the listener’s attention through out the whole documentary, and these sound bites were very well chosen, because they were very intriguing. One was of Leila saying “it's fun. Don't you think it's cool?” when told that hurting herself and cutting her arm is not the answer.

The documentary was very interesting because it talked about the legal system in Iran, which is an important part of the story and at the same time the psychological state of this girl after all what she has been through.  Leila was raped by her brothers, sold for sex, used for years by the man of her town. I liked how personal they make the documentary, how they described Leila to the listener through people’s impression of her “dressed in black, large eyes, warm face, innocent and trusting”.

There were sound bites from Leila’s lawyer and from the founder of the day center that Leila is currently staying at. Sound bites from Leila’s lawyer were very helpful. We get to know the opinion of the person who saved Leila from her death sentence about the matter and why she appealed her sentence. She explained that to a poor family who suffers from drug addiction, their daughter is a property and can be sold. We then have a sound bite from Leila confirming that. She said that her whole family was suffering from an opium addiction, and through her prostitution’s money they paid for the drugs. Leila was sold to an Afghani man and she was his “temporary wife” for almost a year, when one day the police arrested everyone in the house, the temporary husband was jailed for 5 years and Leila was told that she was sentenced to 5 months in prison but she later knew she was going to be hanged. Lawyers believed that she wanted to be sold and that it was her choice and they blamed her for not leaving the house and informing the police.

The lawyer accused the judges of ignorance about what sexual charges are all about and for believing that the woman is always guilty and a woman’s testimony in court carries less weight than a man’s.  I believe a documentary like this can open people’s eyes on things that happen in Iran that often go unheard of. It was good to know how Leila is living her life now, things are better for her but we know that it will never be the way it should’ve been if she wasn’t been subject to all that she has been through. The girl is still learning the basics of life, how to express herself and how to overcome some behavioral problems.

The quality of the narration was very good and clear. The sound bites were placed very nicely in the documentary and helped it flow well. I like how personal they make the issue by bringing Leila and her case closer to you through her opening up and speaking about her story herself. They included little details that made the piece more emotional and created sympathy towards Leila, like how she had imaginary toys growing up and how naïve she sounds. The length of the piece was perfect; it had my attention through out because of how interesting and shocking the issue is so you naturally want to hear more about it and more about the girl (the victim).

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