Roya Sadat’s drama of a female official intervening to save a woman from tribal punishment reflects harsh realities.

Afghanistan has selected Roya Sadat’s drama A Letter to the President as its candidate for the best foreign-language film race at the Oscars.

A look at the harsh realities facing women in today’s Afghanistan, the film follows Soraya (Leena Alam) a lowly female public official who struggles to observe modern laws when confronted with ancient tribal rules that condemn another woman to a brutal punishment. Finding herself on the wrong side of the law after being arrested for her efforts, her only hope of redemption is through a direct written appeal to the president.

Dramatic tension builds as Soraya finds herself literally walking to her own execution while elsewhere the president is only just reading her letter and her children play in a garden, unaware of their mother’s fate.

The film, Sadat’s debut feature, was shown last month in the Locarno Film Festival’s Open Doors program and is due for a competition screening next month at the Busan Film Festival.

A Letter to the President was produced by Sadat and Aziz Deldar of Roya Film House. World sales are being handled by Hong Kong’s Asian Shadows.

Afghanistan has been submitting films to the Oscars since 2002, but has never been short-listed or nominated in the foreign-language category.

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