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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 based on the life of Waris Dirie (Liya Kebede) who was born into a Somalian desert tribe, then ran away from an arranged marriage as a young teen and made her way to London, where she became a world-famous supermodel. As a child, she was circumcised, as is the custom in many African countries. An old woman in the desert cut away those parts that could someday allow her to feel sexual pleasure.
When Waris was sold as a young teenager to an old man who already had three wives, she simply left one day, walking hundreds of miles across desert and scrub land to seek her grandmother in Mogadishu. Amazingly, she found her and was hired by an aunt in London to work as a maid. The film cuts between her experiences as a young girl and what happened in London, where she ran away, lived on the streets and were befriended by a ditz shop girl named Marylin (Sally Hawkins).
It is while sweeping floors and cleaning slop at a McDonalds that she's spotted by fashion photographer Terry Donaldson (Timoty Spell). Donaldson saw something in the bone structure of the cleaning lady that convinced him to give her his card. Waris was all worried trying to be model, but thankfully Marylin knows her fashion and persuades her, several months later, to pop round and see him. She's soon on her way.
"Desert Flower" is an important movie, and a great one for all African women to see. Dirie's life-story is inspiring for me, her experiences as young girl are tragic, and her ability to speak out against a custom that has long been hidden is impressive. The film certainly has an important message. The scenes that will remain in the memory long after the film concludes are those dealing with Waris' circumcision, particularly an excruciating sequence in which I watch her three year old face as the procedure is performed. It's an angry, damning indictment of a barbaric process. Which I wish it will stop.
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