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An unforgiving but ultimately very touching story of an exceptionnally brave Somali woman
on 31 May 2012
This most excellent film tells the story of Waris Dirie, a very brave, clever and stunningly beautiful woman from Somalia, who rose from most humble origins to become a top model, a UN ambassador and a famous human rights activist.
Waris Dirie was born in a family of nomads in Somalia, probably in 1965. At the age of 3 she was victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) a barbarian practice still widespread in many countries in Northern and Eastern Africa. At age 13 she was given in marriage to a 60 years old neighbor - refusing this match she escaped and walked for nine days through the desert until she reached the house of her grandmother in Mogadishu. Rejected by her parents, she was ultimately send as a maid (in fact a slave) for the family of a Somali diplomat living in London. Very badly treated and working only for food, shelter and some old clothes she spend there six years almost never leaving the embassy and not even allowed to watch TV. When in 1985 the family she worked for had to leave Great Britain, she stayed behind, as homeless illegal immigrant. She finally managed to find a janitorial job in a McDonalds and it was there than in 1986 a famous photograph Terence Donovan discovered her, when she was cleaning the floor next to his table...
What followed was a great career of top model, a couple of small movie roles (including in a James Bond movie), the writing of a bestselling autobiography and finally the launching of the first worldwide campaign against female genital mutilation (FGM), a barbarian custom NOT LINKED with any religion, which probably originated in Ancient Egypt at least 3000 years ago, long before the appearance of both Christianism and Islam (and maybe even predating Judaism). This horror is still practiced today in at least 28 states, most of them situated in Northern and Eastern Africa (and also in Yemen and Indonesia). Waris Dirie campaign helped however to start a movement towards the decline and disappearance of FGM.
Today, retired from modelling, mother of two sons, Waris Dirie lives most of the time in Austria and still fights against FGM.
"Desert flower" is a very well done, very realistic and very touching story of her life. Although ultimately very optimistic, this film contains also some scenes which I found harder to watch than most of the horror movies I ever saw... Brace yourself for very hard moments.
In this film the main role is played by an Ethopian top model/actress, Liya Kebede, and she does an excellent job! A child actress, Soraya Omar Scego, plays Waris when she was 13 - and she is even more amazing!
I watched this film with fascination and I was greatly touched by it. I recommend it warmly and I really believe it should be more known around the world.