Desert Flower (2009)
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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
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...
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.
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.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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)
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.