Based on the best-selling autobiography of
the same name, Desert Flower tells the amazing true story of
Somali model turned women’s rights activist Waris Dirie.
Born into a nomadic tribe of desert
goat-herders, Dirie was subjected to female genital mutilation as child
(in her book she describes in harrowing detail how the procedure was
undertaken with a rusty razor blade and no anaesthetic) and fled her
family at 13 to avoid an arranged marriage to a 67-year-old man.
After a series of trials and ordeals
unimaginable to most of us she arrived in London, and was ‘discovered’
by photographer Terence Donovan (here portrayed by Harry Potter’s
whilst working at McDonalds. A Pirelli
calendar cover, succession of lucrative modelling contracts and even a
minor role in the 1987 Bond film The Living Daylights soon
followed, and the former Somali nomad seemingly had the world at her
In 1997 Dirie abandoned her modelling work
to focus on her work against female circumcision, speaking out against
the practise in an interview with Marie Claire magazine. Her
autobiography appeared a year later and in 2002 Dirie formed the Desert
Flower Foundation, an organisation dedicated to raising awareness of the
dangers and barbarity of FGM, a practise that takes place on some two
million girls per year, many of them as young as four.
Model and actress Liya Kabede, herself a
human rights activist, is superb as the adult Dirie. Her performance is
simultaneously spirited, measured and emotive and she also plays
perfectly off her co-stars, who include Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake)
and Craig Parkinson (Control). The sights and sounds of
sun-drenched Africa are effortlessly evoked by Director Sally Hormann,
as are the human and beurocratic indifference that confront Dirie upon
her arrival in London.
Ultimately too, despite its serious
undertones, the story is a triumphant one, and a heartwarming tale of
one woman’s struggle against seemingly inconquerable adversity.
In addition to the usual Madman propaganda
and a theatrical trailer, the release features a highly enjoyable
30-minute Making Of, replete with interviews with the film’s director,
producers and principal cast, BTS footage of the film’s shoots in
Djibouti, London and elsewhere, the story of the film’s genesis ands
plenty of exclusive interview footage of the inspirational Dirie.