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Enemies of Happiness

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A film by Eva Mulvad and Anja Al-Erhayem about Malalai Joya

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Enemies of Happiness poster

"In September 2005, Afghanistan held its first parliamentary elections in 35 years. Among the candidates for 249 assembly seats was Malalai Joya, a courageous, controversial 27-year-old woman who had ignited outrage among hard-liners when she spoke out against corrupt warlords at the Grand Council of tribal elders in 2003. ENEMIES OF HAPPINESS is a revelatory portrait of this extraordinary freedom fighter and the way she won the hearts of voters, as well as a snapshot of life and politics in war-torn Afghanistan.

Enemies of Happiness

Amidst vivid, poetic images of Joya's dusty Farah Province, the film tracks the final weeks of her campaign, when death threats restrict her movements. But the parade of trusting constituents arriving on her doorstep leaves no doubt that Joya is a popular hero. Among her visitors is a 100-year-old woman who treks two hours to offer loyalty and herbal medicine. King Solomon-style, Joya acts as folk mediator and advocate, adjudicating between a wife and her violent, drug-addicted husband and counseling a family forced to marry off their adolescent daughter to a much older man. Protected by armed guards, Joya heads to poor rural areas to address crowds of women, pledging to be their voice and ‘expose the enemies of peace, women, and democracy.’ In the presence of her fierce tenacity, we can imagine the future of an enlightened nation.” - Caroline Libresco, Sundance Film Festival


Directed by: Eva Mulvad and Anja Al-Erhayem
Produced by: Helle Faber
Starring: Mardina Parmach (Interpreter)
Music by: Thomas Knak, Jesper Skaaning, Anders Remmer
Cinematography: Zillah Bowes
Editing by: Adam Nielsen
Studio: Bastard Film
Distributed by: Women Make Movies, The Danish Film Institute
Release date: November 10, 2006
Running time: 58 minutes, VHS/DVD
Country: Denmark
Language: English
Subtitled: Farsi and Pasthu



  • 2006, Silver Wolf Award, IDFA, Amsterdam
  • 2007, World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary, Sundance Film Festival
  • 2007, Special Jury Mention, Silverdocs 2007
  • 2007, Best long documentary, Festival Films De Femmes, High School Jury, Creteil
  • 2007, International Premier Award, One World Media Awards, London
  • 2007, Nestor Almendros Prize, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New York
  • 2007, Special Mention, One World Human Rights Film Festival
  • 2007, Audience Mention Best Documentary, 15 Mostra Internacional de film de dones, Barcelona


  • Documentary Fortnight, MoMA, NYC
  • Broadcast on the PBS WIDE ANGLE series as “A Woman Among Warlords”
  • Human Rights Watch Int’l Film Festival
  • Newport Beach Film Festival
  • Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Greece
  • Toronto, Hot Docs Int. Documentary Festival
  • Göteborg Film Festival
  • Danish National Museum
  • Female Film Festival Malmö
  • Helsinki Doc Point Documentary Film Festival
  • Mexico City Int’l Contemporary Film Festival
  • ZagrebDox, Croatia
  • One World Human Rights Film Festival, Czech Republic
  • True/False Film Festival
  • The Royal Film Commission of Jordan
  • Den europeiske dokumentarfilmfestivalen, Norway
  • Hong Kong International Film Festival
  • Sao Paulo It's All True Int. Documentary FF
  • Belfast Film Festival
  • Creteil, Festival Films De Femmes
  • Istanbul Int. Film Festival
  • Seoul Women's Film Festival
  • International Female Film Festival Malmö
  • München Documentary Festival, Germany
  • Amakula Kampala International Film Festival
  • Warsawa, Planete Doc Review, Poland
  • Jerusalem Int. Film Festival
  • Rencontres Internationales de Documentaire de Montreal
  • Amnesty International Film Festival
  • Women's Film Festival, VT


“Narrates the political trajectory of Joya skillfully … Highly recommended as a resource for discussions in Middle Eastern studies, gender studies, human rights, religious studies, and women’s studies.”
Educational Media Reviews Online

“A political documentary with a difference…quietly celebrates its heroine's fierce determination to reform her country's attitude toward women.”
Leslie Felperin

“A powerful portrait…offers compelling evidence that it takes more than military might and diplomats to hold democratic elections in a country where few people know how to read or write and many say votes can be bought and sold.”
Eva Novrup Redvall
FILM #53

“Eloquent...Joya is a controversial voice for a nation ruined by war and ruled by tradition, and a voice with a desperate urge for change.”
Göteborg Film Festival

“Carries the magic uplift of classic Hollywood and the considerable bonus of authenticity.”
Rob Nelson
Village Voice

“Incredible…a character so compelling you don't want the camera to turn away.”
Brian Darr
GreenCine Daily

“3 Stars. Recommended. Capture[s] Joya’s spirit and tenacity, while also showing the considerable obstacles that Afghan women continue to face… offers a much-needed reminder of what is taking place in that still-troubled country.”
Video Librarian

“Watching this politician interact with her constituents is a lesson in basic democracy, human rights and feminism.”
Curve Magazine


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