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March 28 2010 1 28 /03 /March /2010 12:22
Desert Flower Poster

Incredible yet true, Desert Flower tells the story of Waris Dirie, a top model in the late 1980s-1990s who was the first woman to talk about excision in public.
This cruel tradition is practiced is several muslim cultures, even though it was never written in the Coran. There are various forms of female excision, and the one described in the film consists of removing the clitoris, as well as cutting off the external female genitalia (i.e. the labia) and crudely sewing together what's left to leave a hole the size of a match's head. Although I am a woman, I can hardly fathom the difficulty experienced by excised women on a daily basis. This practice leads of course to physical pain and various diseases, but it is also the cause for psychological issues.

This film focuses on Waris Dirie's success story: a nomad Somalian girl, when she's 13 she flees her family and her life in the desert the night before an arranged marriage she does not want is to set place. She walks for days in the desert to join the nearest city where her grandmother, aunt and cousins live. Unable to keep her, they send her to relatives at the Somalia embassy in London, UK, where she will do the cleaning for almost a decade. When the war in Somalia is over, those relatives go back to Somalia, and she is left with nothing else than a plastic bag. She doesn't speak English and hides in the toilets of Topshop. That's where she meets this crazy and eccentric clerk, Marylin, who accepts to give her shelter for one night in her small hostel room. The day after, Marylin advises her to go to a fast-food restaurant to find a job, which she succeeds in doing. A night becomes a week, and a week several years, a friendship is born. At the fast-food, a famous photographer gives her his card, but she doesn't go to his studio before several months. By then she speaks English, and her life takes a u-turn. She will become a very famous top-model.

Waris Dirie
The movie is perfect. It has hope, humour, a success story, and a good deal of realism.  The excision theme is omnipresent without suffocating the rest of the story. The relationships are authentic, whether they be the family, the friendships, the co-workers. Everything screams truth, and that's what I love in a film. The order in which the scenes are shown is also incredibly clever. It is a smart story, and a smart film. It is not overdone in any way.

Waris Dirie is played by Liya Kebede, an incredibly beautiful woman, 32 years-old who seems only in her 20s.

Liya Kebede and Sally Hawkins in Desert Flower


Cherry on the cake, the music is absolutely entrancing. Judge the theme for yourself:
 

Personally it made me think of Steve Jablonsky's theme for The Island, although I do think Desert Flower (Instrumental) reaches a deeper part of me as only piano tunes can do.

GO FOR IT.

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