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‘Sabaya’ Review: Light Breaking Through Darkness

‘Sabaya’ Review: Light Breaking Through Darkness
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‘Sabaya’ Review: Light Breaking Through Darkness

‘Sabaya’ Review: Light Breaking Through Darkness

In the pitch black night of northeastern Syria, two men drive their rickety jeep into the depths of Al Hol, a refugee camp for families of Islamic State fighters, also known as Daesh. The men rummage in tents and argue with hostile locals before finding their target: a Yazidi teenage girl kidnapped years ago and held as a “sabaya” or sex slave. As the rescuers exit the camp with her, they dodge the high-speed cars and bullets.

All of this happens in the first 20 minutes or so of Hogir Hirori’s “Sabaya”. Mahmud and Ziyad, volunteers with Yazidi Home Center in Syria, will make several more such trips during the film, and hundreds more after the cameras stop rolling. Their task is enormous and demands a stoicism reflected in Hirori’s intrepid and immersive cinema.

Rotating with a hand-held camera, Hirori (who also edited the film) brings together glimpses of the daily life of the men at the Center – cigarette breaks, family meals, endless phone calls with relatives of the captured girls – in a portrait of no sentimental routine. Part of it is a protective tactic: dwelling on the tragedy of the 7-year-old rescued after six years in captivity, or the girl whose family refuses to accept her son because her father is a fighter. of Daesh is to open up to debilitating horror.

This makes all the more remarkable the courage of the old sabayas who are embedded in the camp as informers. As I watched them enter the camp in niqabs, Hirori following them closely with his camera, my heart was pounding with both fear and hope. In a film about the light that pierces the darkest shadows, these women shine the most.

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Sabaya
Unclassified. In Kurdish and Arabic, with subtitles. Duration: 1h30. In theaters.

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