Sonia Nassery Cole was born in Afghanistan but fled Soviet-occupied Afghanistan at the age of 14 by walking to Pakistan. From there, she made her way to the United States. From her new home in the U.S, she spearheaded relief and awareness campaigns for her birthplace, even meeting with President Reagan in the White House. Since then, she has been a permanent fixture in the Afghan relief effort. In recognition of her charitable work for Afghanistan, she was awarded a Peace Medal in the early 1990’s at the United Nations in New York. In 2002, she founded the Afghanistan World Foundation, which seeks to improve education, health care, and development in the country and to enhance social opportunities for Afghan women and children. On December 4th, 2006 at Capitol Hill, Ambassador Stuart Holliday, Meridian International’s new President, bestowed the Afghan and American Sisterhood Award upon Cole as Congressional recognition of her philanthropic services to improving education, and the economic and social development of her homeland.
She directed her first short film, “The Bread Winner,” whilst working with the Foundation in Afghanistan. The film follows a young Afghan boy who sells newspapers on the streets of Kabul in order to feed his family of six. The film premiered at the Milan Film Festival in 2007 to great acclaim. In 2009, Cole returned to Afghanistan to film her first feature, “The Black Tulip”—the first American-backed film produced in post-Taliban Afghanistan. It became the official Afghan entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards. Sonia Nassery Cole received the Golden Palm Award for producing and directing “The Black Tulip” —shot entirely on location in Afghanistan.