Sundance Award-winning documentary 'On Her Shoulders' is a powerful look at Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad's incredible work [Review]

By YP cadet Gienn Leong

The Iraqi Yazidi activist went through unthinkable experiences, but used her tragedy to draw the attention of the United Nations and the world

By YP cadet Gienn Leong |

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The Nobel Prize winner's story is beautifully depicted.

The arduous journey and story of human rights activist and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Nadia Murad Basee Taha, is beautifully depicted in the poignant and inspirational documentary, On Her Shoulders.

The documentary tells an inspirational story, but it is harrowing at times. Murad was born and raised in the small town of Kocho in Nothern Iraq as a member of the Yazidi community. She lived a peaceful and normal life with her family until the day of August 15, 2014. Islamic State militants stormed her village, capturing all the girls over the age of nine, killing all the elderly, and slaughtering the men who were not willing to convert to Islam. Murad, who was 21 at the time, was taken as a sex slave, and sold off to militants. She was raped, beaten, and tortured. Thankfully, she was able to escape, and arrived in Germany as a refugee.

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At the refugee camp, Murad would share her story with every media or news outlet that came, but nothing happened. She tried to raise awareness of the thousands of sex slaves who are still being held captive by IS but to no avail. Realising she had to do something that would draw more attention, she left the refugee camp on a mission, hoping to rescue the held girls in captivity and to save the Yazidi community as a whole.

With the support of various members of governments and Yazda, a non-profit organisation focused on human rights activism, Murad has been able to speak at the UN General Assembly, and meet dozens of world leaders, raising the awareness that they have been striving for.  

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This informative film, directed by Alexandria Bombach, is also visually impressive. The exquisite shots mirror the struggles Murad had to face, and are even more effective when accompanied by sentimental music in the background. Although the cuts and transitions were a little messy, you can still see the emotion that is evoked each time she had to tell her story, which was incredibly tough to watch. But all while, she kept her steely and strong demeanour, pushing through each challenge, vowing to never stop until justice is served.

Murad is a true inspiration and a living example of humanity at its best. This film is an important reminder of the need to fight for what you think is right and what you believe in.