Desert Flower (2009) Poster


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moved to tears & deep compassion
jainay19 April 2012
My mother kept insisting that I watch this movie but I avoided it because of the subject matter. Even in the hospital, the week before she died, she asked, "Did you see DESERT FLOWER yet? You will like it." She died last week on the Eve of Easter and last night I decided to watch it before it deleted from my DVR. I was completely enthralled and every scene drew me in moving me to a deep compassion for these mutilated women. The London fashion model scenes were a pleasant comic respite from the atrocities and it was interesting to see how Waris integrated these two worlds. Although the film has some loose ends and flaws, nothing will make you appreciate your life as a free woman until you see this film. At the very least, you might be inspired to never complain about such trivial matters as the economy, not having a boyfriend or husband or how badly you thought you were treated as a child. At the best, you will be inspired to use the fire in your life to help those who suffer needlessly in the world.
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This is a moving film which should have been more widely distributed
merickson77719 December 2011
This film is an emotionally powerful film with memorable scenes that are extremely moving. It has the same elements that most Oscar winning movies have in that you feel real joy and pain. It's a shame this film didn't make more money than it did. It appears that it was basically set aside and not distributed like it should have been.

The character development of Waris is spot on. The back story in Africa is also effective in getting a glimpse of the complexity of issues and various injustices a young refugee girl like Waris deals with. The scenes in Africa are also beautiful cinematically.

There are a couple technical moments that could have been better that just reflect the budget it had to work with. IE the obvious green screen in front of the United Nations General Assembly and the ads of Waris on the sides of the buildings in Central London.

Somalia has faced unspeakable challenges in the last 25 years. The result of this is the suffering of regular people who have been caught in the crossfire. There are countless stories from Somalia that need to be told on the screen to bring awareness to this part of the world.

Matt Erickson Poet Nation
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true and must-see film
athina9030 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
One of the best book adaptations,focusing on right points and showing real problems of immigrants and African women,in general feminine problems.

It makes you think you can get through anything if someone like her has done this much after fleeing from her family,Africa and everything she knew...In every step she found trouble and got discouraged but she found with love and friendship she got where she is now..Helping other African women so as not to end up like her two sisters,and so many unlucky Somalian and African girls.Through all the pain every woman gets,she must end up being proud for who she is...

Touching,emotional and encouraging,for everyone can do something to change the world in the end. Must be seen seriously,especially if you're a woman...
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Overcoming Obstacles
gradyharp19 March 2012
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.

Grady Harp
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Unimaginably important viewing
KexUK27 November 2012
In life (I'm 68) there are only a few films that really 'cut into your soul and plant themselves'. Most of the ones that do this to me are real-life stories.Gandhi,Lawrence of Arabia, one of the early Titanic films (I was about 9 years old I think). Desert Flower,for all it's minor failings as a film (I stress minor) planted itself firmly in my heart and will not depart. It shames my manhood (in a good way). It demands of me a greater tolerance of others and a resistance to methodologies/traditions that limit the full potential of another human being.. It tells an incredible story of an incredible woman with an incredible spirit. . Unimaginably important viewing.
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Every Parents Need To Know This
elsiclawsonjr19 October 2012
"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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A universal crime against humanity
Dr_Coulardeau21 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
An emotional trip of a woman from the desert of Somalia to the United Nations. I will not follow that road which is detailed and marked by exploitation, scarification, mutilation, alienation, rejection, and all other words in that line rhyming with immigration. The film is dealing with one day in the life of an Africa woman that changed that very life into an ordeal. It is called excision and it is performed at the age of three. Beside the direct death rate, and even the indirect death rate (later when pregnant and wanting to deliver the baby) those who survived are made psychologically inferior and dependent. They are not able to control their lives and to develop the energies that would transform the whole African continent. A tradition coming from Black Africa that was later integrated by Islam when it arrived, though Islam was careful not to spread the practice in the population that did not have that tradition, particularly the Arabs. It is nothing but the survival of an enslaving sexual practice that has to disappear from this earth as fast as possible. Yet we are far from it. Excision, and I will say like all other sexual mutilation, is a crime against humanity, including in the US where 95 per cent of males are circumcised. They have even invented a word for natural: uncircumcised and uncut, which is the barbaric bigotry of some turned into lexical tyranny.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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drama and fairytale, but not an easy movie
TheDiceAreLoaded10 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Desert Flower is a weird movie. It is based on the life story of Waris Dirie, a super-model up there with Naomi Campel and Cate Moss. The movie focuses on the time from just before her discovery until her big success, with constant flashbacks of her childhood in Somalia and her way to London. Liya Kebede plays a wonderful Waris Dirie, very lovely and full of surprise and fear of the daily life we all take for granted, while at the same time showing great bravery and a strong will to fight for a better life. The rest of the cast is medium at best, a positive exception only the character of Terence Donovan, the photographer. The director did not resist the temptation to give Waris a sort of "funny sidekick-friend" as well as the stereotypical I-Jumped-Out-Of-"The Devil Wears Prada"-Movie - manager, to add some slapstick-touch, which was totally unnecessary. The movie does not leave anyone untouched though, it has some heartwarming and touching as well as some very cruel and disturbing passages. It is funny and sweet when Waris is struggling with the British everyday life, making friends, and so on. It is hard to bear when you are faced with drastic pictures of a 3 year old girl being circumcised, with a 19-year old woman suffering still from this cruel and brutal violation, and with the fact that a whole tradition tries to justify this. And that is the main weak point of the movie. The changes from the funny, light and sweet scenes to the brutal and cruel ones come without warning. The editor or director does not give you the time to set your mind to that kind of situation, and after a hefty scene they just switch back to the light comedy-part as if nothing happens. While I understand the intention, for me as a viewer I could not enjoy the funny parts - which were never the less intended to entertain the audience. I recommend this movie if you can handle the topic, but do not look for a entertaining biopic with some depth. It has entertainment, it has depth, but it tries to deliver both but never brings it home all the way in the one or the other topic.
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A Triumpth
chicagopoetry4 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Desert Flower is the story of a Somalian girl who is mutilated at the age of three by the custom of female circumcision. She eventually is sold into servitude to a Somalian family living in London, but when a crisis in Somalian erupts, threatening her visa, she flees and becomes a homeless person. Eventually she befriends a dancing student who gives her shelter and encourages her to pursue a modeling career because of her beauty. She succeeds and becomes one of the top models in the country, and eventually uses her fame to speak out against the horrors of female circumcision. The plot sounds like a bollywood musical but this is actually very moving and gut wrenching story. This is a very important film.
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How can we stop this?
paulouscan31 January 2014
The true story of Waris Dirie, a Somalia girl from a desert region and promised to a miserable local life, who fled to England and eventually became a top model. But the real story, the one that begins the day that changed her life, is another one. Hard and repulsive story, heir of a Somali tradition of 3000 years. A strong and true message, which calls for our humanity. Superb interpretation. Simple direction, valuing the natural interpretation, and decorated with a lot of beautiful film views. Another important point of the message is this distinction between the Somalia tradition and the Coran recommendations. See and support absolutely.
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Thought provokingly splendid
marcusdestorm25 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
When a friend of mine suggested watching "Desert Flower", immediately my thought was of a Romantic Comedy of sorts. It was not thought of as a Drama or a Comedy, nor was it ever thought of as anything like the film that we sat down to view.

The story revolves around that of Warris (Liya Kebede) who, from the sandy deserts of Somalia, arrives in England. Mixed with the short mini flashbacks of Warris's life before coming to the UK, they show the eventual story and reasons surrounding her presence. With little left to the imagination for the viewer, Desert Flower leaves nothing short of a very educational story of a Somali woman coping with the taboo subject of female circumcising.

As this truly is an autobiographical journey of Warris Dirie, many people will find that much of the film is filled with emphasis on abuse – and that is the term that I would use in all manner of the word and expression – as the depiction of the young woman's life is put through sheer hell. With the help of her friends, however, Marylin and Terry, the journey becomes possibly less raw and more tolerable for living as normal as anyone who has witnessed all that Warris has.

Desert Rose is absolutely riveting viewing for those who find their True Stories more appealing than Fiction and Fantasy, of which there is none of that within the scenes of this movie. We believe that maybe "Desert Flower" has broken ground in every possible place concerning the subject matter that it exposes the viewer to, not to mention award winning for the strength, fight and progress in the approach to the United Nations concerning the inhuman suffering that other country women like Warris have and are still going through.

Timothy Spall playing his top modelling photography character acts out his parts with excellence, as does the sometimes hard faced Lucinda who is played by Juliet Stevenson. Combining the world of fashion and real life together, the overall and sometimes harrowing parts of a tortured life brings the viewer ever closer to the point where they will shout, cringe or even remark loudly on such treatment that Warris goes through from a young age. If the viewer can get past the point of her Somalia Culture Tradition of young girls, then what they will find is a welcome sigh of relief as to the outcome.

DVD Archive Rating: 10/10 (Top marks for a truly great directed factual based film)
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Be Sensitive and Watch It!
SuleKalmis25 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Movie is about circumcision of 3 year old Waris, her escape from Somalia, and her way to be a top model. The main actress surprisingly looks very similar to the real Waris Dirie and the casting was generally very satisfying. The scenes of 3-year old girls's circumcision were disturbing and sad but necessary. I watched the movie as a biography of Waris Dirie but it wasn't. The message given throughout the movie was deeper than the life of a Somalian girl.

I cut two points because there were some missing points. For example; this sad girl did almost nothing that really helped her during her way to be a top model: her roommate and the reception lady. The turning point to be a model was indeed her meeting with her roommate and her acceptance to the hostel. The day she changed her life was the day when her roommate told Waris that he is a famous photographer. The fashion agency lady was weak and looked like a fake Miranda Priestly. This is my opinion of course but it disturbed me because that strong fashion character already processed by Meryl Streep successfully and I didn't like to see a fake Miranda. Anyways, I liked the movie in general and it wasn't boring at all. What I liked most was they never used an expression as if this is a Muslim tradition. This is not and this cruel and pervert practice cannot be any religious in any way. I wish this movie attracted more attention to the Waris Dirie foundation and treated as Silver Linings.
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Damned Important Movie "Stop FGM"
kevinmaclellan01 April 2015
The movie is autobiographical and makes the grade as a well made movie. It is easy to understand and follow. There is a story that is compelling and rewarding. I liked many aspects of the music and cinematography.

However, the movie is important because it has a shocking affect on the viewer with regard to the widespread use today of a barbaric practice of female genital mutilation or FGM. It is a practice steeped in obligation most often based in religion but also cultural. Watching the movie demands the viewer make efforts to speak out and stop the practice. That can mean just shouting out to our politicians and demand greater controls in these areas most often targeted for foreign aid money. How do we get religious leaders to scream at the people and reject such barbaric Hadiths and interpretations. Watch the movie and be moved.
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jotix1007 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
A young Somali girl is at the center of this film, based on a real story. Waris, a young shepherdess, lives with her nomad family tending to the herd, camping everywhere in an inhospitable landscape. The family is dominated by a matriarch, as we seldom see the father. Waris, who is a teenager as this tale begins, is horrified when she is sold to an older man with three wives. The only solution is to run away from that situation. The best thing is to find her grandmother in Mogadishu, a trek that will take her days across the arid countryside.

In flashbacks we get to know Waris best kept secret. She had the indignity of having been circumcised at the tender age of three by an older woman, who performs the ritual that mutilates women's vaginae, rendering her unable to feel, or have any pleasure during intercourse. In fact, the barbaric act kills a lot young girls who bleed to death by the way they are cut. Through ignorance this practice is done in a lot of countries. Waris is not the only one, but she had the courage to speak publicly about it and create an outrage as she presented her case in the United Nations.

Waris Dirie ended up in London as a teenager brought to work at the Somali embassy as a maid. When war broke in her native country, she had to fend for herself. Through a kind soul, who took pity on her, Waris was able to make something out of herself. A lucky break came in the way of a photographer that realized her potential and she rose to the ranks of super model because of her beauty and talent, which in a way, plays as a Cinderella story in comparison to the hard life she endured as a child.

Directed by Sherry Horman, the film has two narratives. Waris' life in Africa, and her meteoric ascent into becoming a fashion model. The best part of the film is the first one because it is more realistic, with a clear message about a fact that has been played in the press from time to time, but whose practice continue to maim young females throughout the world by men hating women and subjecting them to a barbaric procedure that kills a large number of young females, as was the case of two of Waris' sisters. The London part of the story is more artificial, when compared with the more real African narrative.

Soraya Omar-Scego, the young actress that plays Waris is quite compelling in her determination to leave behind family to look for a better life. Liya Kebede is the adult Waris. A ravishing beauty, no doubt, a successful model herself, she seems credible. Wonderful Sally Hawkins is seen as Marilyn, the English woman who befriended Waris and took her under her wing. Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Craig Parkinson, Meera Syal, are seen in supporting roles.
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Cultural imperialism and double standards
EskeRahn15 April 2017
This films is one of the worst examples of people forgetting that when you point one finger at something, three fingers points back at you...

Sure I find circumcision disgusting too, and it is good that the story is told.

BUT telling the story using a women sick with underweight like a KZ prisoner, claiming her looks as pretty, sort of destroys the whole project...

OTHER cultures attacks of the female body to suit its ideals we shall see as disgusting, but OUR cultures ideals suppressing females by malnutrition are tooted as positive....

Embarrassing that this obvious dilemma is completely ignored, how blind of our own faults can anyone get? Double standards at its worst?
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Terrible practice that needs to be rooted out!
muvi-fan-7326 July 2018
It was not long before when I first came to know about circumcision, but it was only for males. The information came along with the news that it has some sort of positive effect. To put my view, I would say it's not so. It was after that came a day when I came across movie Desert Flower. I got to know about the terrible practice of female genital mutilation. Both the sexes miss onto something nature has given them in such practice. What's more evil is there are the cases where subject bleeds to death. It is terrible.

Desert flower is a movie of a woman, in Somalia who becomes victim to the practice of FGM. She however changes her fate and becomes a supermodel and even UN special ambassador

At the end however, we receive data how those practices are made illegal and human beings living in those area are getting together towards a better future.
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A good movie with some unnecessary politicization
eurograd8 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This move has a very strong argument and a nice plot, though it is not exactly a biography movie. The way the sequence was constructed works well most of the time, with flashbacks to her childhood in Somalia.

However, I see one major and one minor pitfall. The minor one is the unnecessary, and apparently random character of Samuel Jackson, the New York's guy that her met at a disco in London and later take huge effort to meet him in New York.

The major pitfall is the unnecessary politicization of some scenes. I have something against movies that "take a stand" or need to explicitly "make a point". This happened twice. One, at her speech at United Nations about her ordeal, she appears very unnatural and what could be the climax of the film is a big let-down with a flurry of clichés about Africa and political correctness (genital mutilation is wrong but I still love my mother and I understood why they do that). Other, when the English caretaker proposes her a convenience fake-marriage under the most lame ever excuse of "my people have done you so much harm so this is the least I can do". Collective guilty at its prime - but only for the English, not for the "pure" Africans who do those mutilations out of tradition or so.
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An anti-feminist superficial movie
cacademia3 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I found this movie to be a handful of stereotypes and clichés about women and womanliness. In effect, aside from a few powerful scenes, the rest of the movie seemed like a never-ending ad for some big fashion firm or an incomprehensible promotion for some anorexic and beautiful actor. If the movie had stopped right at the edge of our Western-world obscenities about fashion, beauty canons and femininity, I could have considered it just an OK movie. But the plot, although real, is unrealistic, and the frames and shots, not to mention the story, are absolutely superficial. The movie probably wants to convey us its rightful disgust for excision practices, yet it prompted my disgust by treating its own main character as mere merchandise, in accordance with some of our Western-world values. I didn't watch the end of the movie because I found insulting the 2/3rds of it. I hope the end makes up for the long and superficial beginning, although I very much doubt it.
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