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Review | Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free – Dawn Gifford Engle

fdiff January 10, 2023 3 min read

Shirin Ebadi Until We Are Free



“A woman who will be like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but shaped by the turbulence that washes over her.” – Khaled Hosseini, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’


Director Dawn Glifford Engle has documented the life and struggle of Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Shirin has become the face of many struggles fought by women across the world, and Engle, in her documentary, shows how Shirin has paved the way for the Iranian women to open up and speak their voices.

Director Dawn Glifford Engle has been closely associated with Shirin, for about 15 long years. In the documentary we saw Shirin from her eyes, we learn how Shirin stood up for herself through her frames. 

The film starts with a beautiful Vista of Iran and then we see an old picture of Shirin, a daughter of Iran. Then the frame transports us 50 years later in an event where Shirin was being awarded. Her speech concluded with, “Let’s bring an end to injustice,  especially for Women.” Shirin’s struggles throughout her life, shows how strong she has been and gives us a glimpse of the Iranian world. 

Engle has rightfully understood where the Western audience was lacking and she presented them with a slice of life of Iran. A world that is so different yet so hauntingly relatable at the same time. Shirin  was born in Hamadan, a city that finds its origin in ancient Persia. While growing up she had seen her way of life getting ruptured by unexpected events. She saw how the violence unleashed upon her land and she was ready to step into a battle that’d last for a long time! Her indomitable spirit became invincible and made her a strong resilient woman who always cared for her country, especially the women in it. 

Shirin is a symbol of power and struggle, she is a voice in the darkness. In her documentary, Dawn Glifford Engle shows how the idea of justice and fairness was something that always inspired Shirin to speak up and raise her voice. The documentary also shades light on her upbringing. Her parents never differentiated between a girl and a boy and the siblings all enjoyed the taste of life equally. Shirin proudly calls her parents true feminists. Despite coming from a Modern Muslim family, Shirin was sent to study in a Zoroastrian School close to her home. Her fathers taught her the essence of equality among human beings. Shirin recalls a sweet safe childhood with smells of Jasmine, cherries, pomegranates and the tint of berries, a childhood which has become a dream to many Iranian children now.  She lived in Tehran and had a beautiful family that showered her with all the love. 

Her life took a great turn when the CIA took over the Iranian government and the country went through a massive change. Shirin’s dream also changed. 

Coming from a land of rich cultural background, Shirin was already equipped with a progressive mind. She didn’t believe in slavery or oppression, just like her ancestors. 

Through Shirin’s journey and achievement, Dawn has tried to uphold how Iranian women are still striving to live in a better world. The documentary becomes extremely relevant at this moment, with all the atrocities that are taking place there, it is definitely the time to rise and fight back. Seeing Shirin, we can also conclude that her indomitable spirit and courage would lead a thousand others towards a better world.

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