Saturday, November 17, 2018

DOC NYC Spotlight: On Her Shoulders

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presented its eighth year in New York City from November 8th-15th.

On Her Shoulders
Directed by Alexandria Bombach
Festival Screenings

It is an unfortunate state of the world that there are so many humanitarian crises that some end up being less reported and prominent than others. An increasing number of documentaries deal with both current and past genocides and other horrors, with one express aim above all else: to broadcast the story of those affected, both the dead and the survivors, as widely as possible, with the notion that, the more people who know what has happened, the less likely it is to continue happening or to happen again somewhere else.

Nadia Murad is a twenty-three-year-old Yazidi woman from Iraq who was taken by ISIS when most of her village was killed. After enduring months of sex slavery, Murad was able to make a miraculous escape. Now, representing her entire people as one of the few survivors and one of the only ones willing to talk, Murad is telling her story to anyone who will listen, going on radio shows and making her case to the United Nations, firmly determined that she can make a difference and help wake the world up to the reality of a daily nightmare for those like her.

This film’s title is extremely fitting, ascribing the burden that Murad feels, not only in being the voice for those from her village but also for victims of similar abuse and violence all over the world. Murad speaks some English but usually has her words translated by an interpreter, which gives her testimony an even more potent effect because of the passion she exudes. Though she is brave, she retains an extraordinarily relatable humanity, one that reveals itself through her exhausted demeanor, so tired of having to relive these experiences over and over, and through the genuine tears she sheds both when she sees others moved and when she shares in their grief.

This is a vital film that helps to amplify Murad’s message and share the painful, disturbing details that most people don’t think about when they consider the very broadly-discussed enemy of ISIS. Murad gives a face to a conflict that feels far away, showing that she is here to ensure that what she and the residents of her village went through will not be forgotten and will not be in vain. American-born director Alexandria Bombach, whose previous film looked at Afghanistan’s first free press, demonstrates her awareness of just what exists throughout the world, so far from much of its audience but so crucial to be seen.


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