Commander Arian, a Story of Women, War and Freedom (2018) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Hit by 5 bullets, commander Arian experiences the cost of war in the flesh as she is forced to redefine her role in the struggle for women's freedom.

  • On the front line of the Syrian war, 30-year-old Commander Arian guides a female battalion towards the city of Kobane to release its people from the grip of ISIS in Alba Sotorra's empowering tale of emancipation and freedom. When the war in Syria erupted, a group of women from the Kurdish resistance formed the YPJ - Women's Protection Units. Arian, who at a young age had witnessed the barbaric treatment of sexual assault victims, leads the unit and dedicates her life to defeating ISIS. As the YPJ inches closer to its target, she implores her comrades to discover the true meaning of their fight: freedom for the next generation of women. With unprecedented access to the commander and her troops, including harrowing scenes of Arian's slow recovery from multiple bullet wounds, Sotorra brilliantly crafts an enthralling portrait of a woman on a mission.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • The YPJ, the Women Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Jin) is an all female military organization created in Syria in March 2013. It is formed by tens of thousands of women from different origins: Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Circassians and foreign volunteers. These women fighters have subverted traditional gender roles and stereotypes; representing the woman as a fighter, a soldier, a protector, a woman in war - roles more traditionally and culturally associated with masculinity.

    The YPJ is leading a revolution that has put women's emancipation at the forefront of it's agenda. They assert that radical measures are needed to attain sexual equality for women and the dismantling of patriarchal gender constructs. This includes the use of physical defense and arms to defend their communities, and their political and ideological beliefs. This course of action can be interpreted as "extreme", but wartime, uprisings and social unrest can provide women with the space to assert themselves and demand representation in ways that "normal", civilian life would not permit.

    The YPJ advocates for progressive and active feminism through the implementation of Jineology, the science of women. Jineology is built on the principle that without the liberation of women within society, no society can call itself free. "Jin, jiyan, azadi! - Women, life, freedom!".

    Commander Arian is part of the YPJ, Women's Protection Units, the all-female army fighting in Syria for women's emancipation from the most barbaric and patriarchal enemy of all: ISIS. As she struggles to recover from multiple bullet wounds, Arian looks back on her last mission to liberate the city of Kobane from its three year-long siege under ISIS.

    The film oscillates between two time frames: the past, where director Alba Sotorra tracks Commander Arian for months across the barren plains of northern Syria on her final mission, plunging us into the day-to-day life of YPJ fighters on the front line; and the present, in which Commander Arian fights to recover from the visceral wounds of war, far away from her comrades.

    For Arian and her comrades, resistance is the path to emancipation from an entrenched patriarchal society. As they launch a military operation to end the siege, we witness the life of female fighters at war - their sacrifice, their dreams and their ideals - and join them on the road to Kobane, where they will ultimately arrive as liberators. Yet freedom comes at a high price. Arian survived, but like many of her wounded comrades, she will have to find new ways to fight for women's freedom. After years of armed combat, she will never surrender.

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