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Jan Josef Liefers,
Thierry van Werveke
The autobiography of a Somalian nomad circumcised at 3, sold in marriage at 13, fled from Africa a while later to become finally an American supermodel and is now at the age of 38, the UN spokeswoman against female genital mutilation (FGM). Written by
DESERT FLOWER is a very powerful film that introduces many viewers to the atrocities of Female Genital Mutilation, defined by the dictionary as 'FGM, also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is defined as all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non- medical reasons. FGM is typically carried out on girls from a few days old to puberty. It may take place in a hospital, but is usually performed, without anesthesia, by a traditional circumciser using a knife, razor, or scissors.' Though that is not the main driver of this story it certainly makes the life of Waris Dirie who wrote this autobiography recognized as someone who overcame insurmountable odds to become one the world's top models and a speaker for women's rights.
Liya Kebede stars as Waris Darie and is the perfect choice of an actress to fill this role: she is an International supermodel, actress and philanthropist, born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2003, she was the first woman of color to become the face of Estée Lauder cosmetics.
Waris Dirie (Liya Kebede) was born in Somalia and was subjected to FGM and fled across the desert to freedom form the heinous attitude toward women (Waris as a child is beautifully portrayed by Soraya Omar-Scego). She struggles though dreary jobs, eventually hooks up with Marilyn (Sally Hawkins0 who introduces her to the world of fashion via Terry Donaldson (Timothy Spall), learns how to dress and walk in heels and eventually becomes the great model we know us as today. She has love interests (Anthony Mackie) but her aim is to gain enough credibility and money to go before the WHO and speak against the mutilation that exists in many countries to this day.
Directed by Sherry Horman who adapted Dirie's autobiography for the screen with Smita Bhide, the visuals are spectacular and the manner in which the story is related is full of passion and compassion. The entire cast (including Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, and Craig Parkinson) is pitch perfect. But it is Liya Kebede who fills the screen not only with her beauty but also with a powerful performance of the main character. A very fine film with a heavy message.
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