A Girl from Mogadishu is an English-language Irish-Belgian film. Directed, produced, and written by Mary McGuckian — it is, a heartbreakingly true story based on the testimony of Ifrah Ahmed. Ifrah Ahmed is a young woman who escaped war-torn Somalia and emerged as one of the world's foremost international activists against gender-based violence. The film stars Aja Naomi King as Ifrah and was filmed in Belgium, Ireland, and Morocco.
Synopsis. Ifrah is born into a refugee camp in war-torn Somalia and trafficked to Ireland as a teenager. The film follows as she recounts her traumatic childhood experiences of war, rape, female genital mutilation, and other violence. She vows to devote her life to the eradication of female genital mutilation and takes her campaign internationally. First to the President of Ireland, then the European Parliament and United Nations.
A look at the story. The script and story are strong enough to keep you engaged from start to finish. While Ifrah is in Somalia, every second is terrifying. Every person feels like an antagonistic force against her, and she is alone for much of it too. You already know she will make it to Ireland, but it is still so unnerving. You hope that no hurt comes to her on her journey. And, there are so many opportunities for men to hurt her. You feel her constant vulnerability heightened by the fact that she is the youngest there. You desperately want things to go right for her that you could cry. There was so much tension and fear built up inside me that I felt I could burst. Ifrah’s story ends well, but for so many girls, it simply does not.
The film’s heart. In one short scene, the heart of the film is revealed. Both Ifrah and her fellow refugee sisters’ grandmothers had a saying. They said there were three feminine sorrows. The first is genital mutilation. The second is her wedding night. The third is the birth of her first child. The three feminine sorrows. Heartbreaking. None of those are supposed to be so emotionally and physically painful, yet in this culture, they are, and all these pains stem from the same body part. It seems Ifrah’s female-ness stems from her genitals. It doesn't for everyone, but for Ifrah — largely, due to the culture she grew up in juxtaposition with the culture she became an adult — it does. When Ifrah fights gender-based violence, she fights the notion that being a woman is a negative thing. She is taking away the things that keep so many young girls up at night — crying that they were born girls. Without the three feminine sorrows, does it become wonderful to be a girl?
Ifrah, the person. You forget that Ifrah is just a girl still as she speaks to politicians and leads a movement. With a childlike sweetness, she smiles wide and asks important people for selfies. She looks like an angel in her beautiful bright clothes. You fall in love with her so quickly. She’s not a stone-faced political organizer. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course, but she is a kid. I love the way this film portrayed her. The actor that plays Ifrah is perfect. Her big bright smile and the graceful way she speaks is simply wonderful.
The cinematography. The cinematography is beautiful — but when you film in a place like Morocco, well then, you are cheating a bit because the scenery is so breathtaking. Even in a battle-zone, the landscape's beauty shows. The movement of the camera in this film is unremarkable. The camera functions not as a character but as an invisible spectator, which is the norm for a serious-toned biographical piece like this one. Unfortunately, the lack of personality from the cinematography and other parts of the film made the film feel a little flat. There is nothing about the filmmaking — other than the story — that stands out to me in my memory.
Takeaways. A Girl from Mogadishu is a must-watch feminist film. It celebrates the power of female voices, screaming for women everywhere to find the courage to take up space and tell their truth, but especially women from the global south. These are women who are not heard at all and need the microphone so badly! This film is that, a microphone. Listen to what Ifrah Ahmed has to say. Watch the film. Visit her website ifrahfoundation.org. Donate to her organization. Spread the word. This is an important story. Please interact with it beyond the film.