In Her Hands (2022) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)

Title Card for In Her Hands

“In Her Hands” is a draining, in the best way, documentary to watch as you come to understand how imperialism affects those subjugated.

“In Her Hands” is a draining, in the best way, documentary to watch as you come to understand how imperialism affects those subjugated.

Director(s) Marcel Mettelsiefen, Tamana Ayazi
Screenplay By N/A
Based On N/A
Date Released (Netflix) 11/17/2022
Genre(s) Young Adult, Documentary, Non-English (), Historical, War
Duration 1 Hour 33 Minutes
Content Rating PG-13
Noted Cast
Herself Zarifa
Himself Massoum

This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links which, if a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

Film Summary

Covering the period from January 2020 to the first few months of 2022, we meet Zarifa, a 26-year-old mayor of Maidan Wardak. Her goal, as one of the youngest mayors in the country, alongside one of the few female ones, was to have her people see the value of government and the capabilities of women in power. This was no easy task; even her father needed some convincing, but behind every great woman is a handful of men.

One of the most notable men are Massoum. He is not from an upper-class family, or spent his life in the military like Zarifa’s dad, none of that. He is a man who believed in Zarifa and, with his life, protected her as a bodyguard and driver. But, as the fall of Kabul approaches in September 2019, we’re forced to realize that the United States withdraw from Afghanistan, and occupation, didn’t improve anything. All it did was give some a tease of a better life.

Things To Note

Why Is “In Her Hands” Rated PG-13

  • Dialog: Rare curse word is uttered
  • Violence: Depiction of violence through archival videos or pictures and depiction of blood from injuries
  • Sexual Content: None whatsoever
  • Miscellaneous: Nothing comes to mind

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Why did Zarifa’s family end up in Germany, of all places?

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.


Zarifa is the now former mayor of Maidan Wardak, whose ascension to mayor was constantly questioned and whose life was threatened throughout her term and thereafter.


Massoum was Zarifa’s bodyguard and driver who, multiple times, found himself saving Zarifa’s life while putting himself in situations where he could have met his death.


Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended


How Long It Puts Title Cards Up & That It Repeats Them

With so much going on and not everything being an interview segment while the documentarians act as a fly on the wall, it can be easy to forget who is who beyond Zarifa and Massoum. So being reminded that this person is Zarifa’s mom, that this is a person who is a Taliban commander, and so on helps to keep you engaged. It helps you keep up with the whirlwind of how Afghanistan shifted as the Trump administration executed peace talks with the Taliban, the aftermath of that decision, and the Biden administration’s shoddy pullout, which has left the lives of many potentially worse than before the American invasion.

Zarifa’s Drive and Sacrifice

Privilege is something talked about often in American society. Usually, it is reserved for the rich, the well-connected, those considered traditionally beautiful, those born White, and any combination of these things and more. However, when privilege, in Zarifa’s case, is having an education, going to university, and not dying while trying to support your town? It puts things in perspective. It reminds you how much isn’t up for debate, especially in the western world.

Yes, abortion rights are under attack, the right to love who you want without fear of persecution, but girls are killed for trying to learn how to read. Women are killed for earning positions some think belong to men. It’s like the incels we fear due to the possibility of school shootings coming together and taking over a country.

Which, yes, is ghastly oversimplifying how the economy, past failed governments, and a culture shift are causing disarray in Afghanistan, yet, as Zarifa showed, to create change, there has to be a drive to put yourself in harm’s way. There is a recognition that you could be martyred or even a member of your family. But, no revolution in culture or thought doesn’t require the death of the old ways, and sometimes, violence is the only way to wake someone up, unfortunately.

Massoum’s Story

The beauty of Massoum being so featured in “In Her Hands” is not just to present a counter-narrative to the many misogynist men but also to help you understand why it can be so easy to get radicalized. Massoum doesn’t have the privilege Zarifa had in terms of a father who was in the military. He is from a poor area, and when working with Zarifa, yes, he had to risk his life, but he got a job and purpose out of that. He was helping someone who wanted to improve things so his daughter wouldn’t know the life he and his ancestors knew.

But, when the fall of Kabul happened, and even when Zarifa left to work in the state defense, you get reminded of what happens to people like Massoum. Those who don’t get granted some refugee status, who don’t get to move up as better opportunities come about, and it is heartbreaking. The fact that he even has to be cordial with the Taliban, people who tried to kill him and his employer multiple times, is nuts! Yet, to survive, to make sure no harm comes to him or his child – it has to be done, and it’s taxing to think of what his life is like sometimes more than Zarifa’s.

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