Saturday, May 5, 2018

Hot Docs '18 Film Review - On Her Shoulders

On August 3rd, 2014 Nadia Murad Basee Taha's life changed forever. Murad was a student and farmer in her northern Iraqi Yazidi village of Kocho when Isis forces clad in black came to town. The separated the men from the women, then the children from their mothers killing most of the adults and taking the women and children up into the mountains as captives. Nadia became a sex slave attacked repeatedly by her captors. Although she felt bad about what was happening to her she felt worse for her fellow captives as young as 10 that were suffering the same fate. Nadia managed to escape was sent to Germany for treatment and counseling but after one session she left determine to bring relief for her  people no matter how many time she had to tell her story. The documentary builds toward Nadia's address to President's and Prime Ministers at the United Nations General assembly. She is repeatedly reminded that she only has 3 minutes to speak starting off a lengthy process spanning two continents as she visits world cities, speaks to politicians does interviews recounting the atrocities to herself and her people. In any downtime, she works on her speech and in her spare time she brings toys, present and hope to her fellow Yazidis in refugee camps.

Director Alexandria Bombach handles her subject superbly. She does not focus on the low hanging fruit of the blow by blow physical abuse suffered by Murad. Instead, she looks at what the Yazidis want now. Recognition and justice of the genocide that occurred, a solution for the Yazidis in refugee camps and freeing their homeland from Isis control. Bombach deals with the facts up front in at the form of a crisply edited sequence of interviews build on one long-form radio spot in Ottawa. Nadia is telling the details of her experience in different forums leaving her drained, crying and exhausted. These are the hard moments of being an activist outside of meeting political leaders, receiving gifts and touring politics capitals.

Nadia Murad is the reluctant heroine of her people's cause. She survived sex slavery the slaughter of 18 members of her family captivity and torture. As one of her experienced supporters, international prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo states it up to her to bring to light the fate of the Yazidi people. All she wanted to do was study, be an athlete, a farmer and open a salon one day as it would bring joy and comfort to Yazidi women. That is all gone and she will consider herself worthless until there is justice for her people. In one tell seen while in Ottawa she sees the Canadian soldiers on parade but can't help thinking that all the Yazidi soldiers are dead. She smiles and says thank you in English to well -wishers but wants to see action as she addressed the U.N. security counsel on Human trafficking, is elected a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and does get to speak to the General Assembly in the end.

On Her Shoulders is the story of one young woman's quest to bring recognition of the plight of her people, legal action against the perpetrators and a plan of action for her below Yazidis living in refugee camps. Nadia Murad succeeds on all fronts. Teamed with high profile human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Two strong fellow Yazidi's  Murad Ismael and Ahmed Khudida Burjus she is able to keep up a hectic pace quickly recover from endless interviews and photo ops to get the message out. The world does take notice as the slow wheels of justice begin to turn.

**** Out of 4

On Her Shoulders | Alexandria Bombach | U.S.A. | 2018 | 94 Minutes.

Tags: Documentary, Yazidi, Sinjar, Kocho, Islamic State, Genocide, Sexual Slavery, Activist, Refugee, United Nations, Parliament Hill, Brandenburg Gate,

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