NEWPORT BEACH, United States (Kurdistan24) - There was a heavy silence in the theatre as the audience, drying tears with hands or napkins, left after watching a Kurdish documentary.
The Girl Who Saved My Life was a powerfully disturbing movie directed by the Duhok-born, Sweden-based, Hogir Hirori and screened as part of the Newport Beach Film Festival.
The movie follows Ezidis (Yazidis) whose homes were turned into dust and debris, whose loved ones were kidnapped and whose lives were turned into nightmares.
For no crime other than practicing their ancient religion, Ezidis were targeted for extinction by Islamic State (IS) marauders in August 2014.
In The Girl Who Saved My Life we meet a woman who gave birth while running uphill to flee the IS slaughter.
Unable to find anything else to cut the umbilical cord, she used a sharp stone.
While offering a brief glimpse into the agony that the displaced Ezidis have experienced, Hirori sheds light into his personal history whom countless of Kurds share: That of the Anfal genocide, the Kurdish uprisings, and the Kurdish exodus in 1991 when as an 11-year-old he was among nearly three million civilians who experienced week-long walks along the borders towards Turkey or Iran.
“I couldn’t tell my parents anymore that I was hungry or freezing or tired. I had to grow up and cope with the situation on my own,” Hiror reminisces in his film.
He knows what it’s like when childhood is stolen from kids. That is why he is haunted by the little girl who has lost her home and is curled in pain alone under the small shade of a red water tank.
The helpless girl inadvertently saves the director’s life, hence the title. But he loses her and spends months looking for her.
IS kills Ezidis because they are “infidels,” and promises to protect them as “brothers,” only if they convert to Islam.
“We call upon Ezidis to come down from the Shingal mountain before they starve. Admit that there is no God but God and Mohammad is his Messenger.”
As tempting as that offer might be to people who are starving and digging into the rough soil with their bare fingers to bury the children who lost their lives due to dehydration and hunger, the majority of Ezidis refuse to give in.
They accept their harsh fate and plead to their God to save them from the unimaginable hardship.
Both the victim and the victimizer call on God.
In this powerful documentary, we meet a lot of people, including a young girl who wants to be a doctor when she grows up and has done great at school. But now she has to give up on her dreams and take care of her four young siblings in a humid tent where the only protection from the mud are cardboards.
Nonetheless, Hirori proves that suffering is not the only currency of refugee camps. There is also love, hope, friendship, humanity.
And that is where his genius lies—in his ability to turn a painful documentary into some sort of drama that manages to end on a positive note. Hirori presents a strong closure to an upsetting movie.
The Girl Who Saved My Life wonthe Angelos Award for Best Swedish Feature in 2016 Göteborg film festival.