On Her Shoulders

A powerful documentary film about Nadia Murad, a survivor of the Yazidi genocide. It is a film about the performance of trauma, how it is necessary for the media to spread awareness of an issue effectively and to bring the reality of abstract policy to politicians. But also how damaging, and at times surreal, it is for those who have do it, who have to tell their stories over and over again.

The life Nadia has found herself in is one of a strange kind of celebrity. Among the Yazidi diaspora community she is an icon and a hero, bringing their despair to the world’s attention. It is a burden that weighs on her heavily and that she takes very seriously. But the actual practicalities of her day-to-day life doing that involve getting her hair done, picking out outfits, timing her speeches, and posing for photo after photo. She is this strange mix of model and actress, which contrasts starkly with her whole reason for being there, which she is ever conscious of.

The perpetual churn of media interviews and speeches at the UN and speeches at activist events makes you wonder how much longer this woman, barely into adulthood, can keep reliving the worst day of her life. And why she should have to. Why each media channel needs the same story with its own branding on it, why each committee needs the same testimony reiterated to it. But the bite of it is, it is effective. Her oration, her delivery, moves for bipartisan support for Yazidi refugees in the Canadian Parliament and an investigation into the genocide by the UN. But at what cost to her?

The film concludes with Nadia becoming the first UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking who is themselves a survivor of human trafficking. She wants only the chance to return to her homeland and rebuild her village. But whether her sacrifices, the exposure of her wounds again and again to public scrutiny, will actually reap tangible change for her people is a question that remains unanswered.


Documentary about the American Supreme Court judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Very interesting. At 85, she’s doing push-ups and holding planks and writing dissenting opinions on sexist and racist rulings. She does seem like a machine, getting about 2 hours sleep some nights, and not missing a day at work despite suffering from ass and pancreas cancer. She does seem like someone with extraordinary drive – in the 1950s she sat her second year at Harvard Law School, coming top quarter of her class, while simultaneously raising a 2-year-old and caring for her husband who was undergoing cancer radiation therapy, while also organising his mates to take notes for him during lectures, so she could type them up for him to read so he would also graduate alongside her. I mean fuck, that’s impressive.

The Judge

A documentary movie about Palestine’s first judge in Sharia law, Kholoud Al-Faqih. So inspiring. She is a stalwart of bravery and defiance in the face of both patronising sexism and more concerted misogynistic disregard for women’s lives. She defies tradition, endures discrimination and champions other women in the field. To watch her sew seeds of hope, be a hero and an icon for anyone who had never realised just what women can be, and persevere with grace and humour, is so uplifting and nourishing.

For me, it gave me more insight into what Sharia law actually is, what it actually codifies, and how, like any other law, its application in the hands of a male-dominated industry is more the problem.

There was also a really interesting Q&A after with Amina, the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre here in Glasgow. It was interesting to see the similarities, coz hey, patriarchy’s global, but also the differences, such as the double discrimination to stay silent lest you bring more scorn upon an already-vilified minority. Really thought-provoking. Highly recommend you see it if you get the chance.