Girl Unbound

Director: Erin Heidenreich
2016 | Canada, Pakistan, USA | 80m
GENRE: Discrimination | Documentary | Gender | Parenting/Family | Queer | Religion/Spirituality | South Asian | Sports | Transgender
SECTION: Documentary Features | Showcase
Expected Guests: Director, Erin Heidenreich


In the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, where females are forbidden to attend school, listen to music, or walk outside unescorted or uncovered, the idea of a female athlete is an anathema.

As the living embodiment of that radical idea, Maria Toorpakai has been a target of Taliban death threats since the age of sixteen. But against all odds, she is the top-ranked female squash player in all of Pakistan. When she was young, Maria was able to excel at squash by dressing and passing as a boy—an identity she gravitated to naturally. Now that she is an adult, her gender orientation is still fluid and unclear even to her, but there’s nothing uncertain about her strength, confidence, or commitment to her chosen sport.

Much of her fortitude and fearlessness can be traced directly to her courageously open-minded father, an anomaly in their violently patriarchal and oppressive homeland. His unfettered belief in gender equality has empowered both Maria and her sister, Ayesha, a rising young political activist, to inspire other Pakistani women and girls to pursue their own dreams — at great risk to the lives of their entire family. From the excitement of a high-stakes international squash tournament to the dangers of driving through Taliban-controlled territory, director Erin Heidenreich captures both the peril and the perseverance of an athlete who dares to defy those who seek to contain her.


Consulate General of Canada, San Francisco / Silicon Valley, Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

3rd i South Asian Films / Center for Asian American Media / Federation of Gay Games / Trikone

  • Website: Facebook
  • Language: In English, Urdu, and Pashto with English subtitles
  • Premiere Status: West Coast