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IDFA - Yezidi Girls & The Return with Extended Q&A

Followed by an in-depth conversation with director Zahavi Sanjavi, protagonist Shilan and writer Chris Keulemans.

Yezidi Girls
Reber Dosky (NL, 2016) 14'

A close-up reportage in which three Yezidi adolescent girls and young women talk about their experiences as prisoners of IS.

Who remembers the news reports of the Yezidis captured by IS forces in Iraqi Kurdistan? Yezidi Girls brings the plight of these kidnapped girls and women sharply back into focus. In Lalish, a place of pilgrimage for Yezidis, three victims aged 15, 17 and 18 explain how their neighbors, with whom they had always lived in peace until that moment, betrayed them and handed them over to IS.

With closed expressions – they never look directly into the camera – they tell of how they were separated from their family, tortured and forced to relinquish their faith. Sometimes, the inability to speak is all the answer we need, such as when the subject of sexual abuse is raised. No matter how awful their accounts are of how they managed to escape IS, these stories come as a relief. We only see smiles appear on the girls’ faces when they are performing religious rituals; happily, their fears that they wouldn’t be allowed to return to the Yezidi community proved unfounded.


The Return
Zahavi Sanjavi (SE, 2016) 54'

In this portrait of perseverance in the midst of insurmountable grief, a nurse named Shilan returns to a refugee camp for Yezidis in Iraqi Kurdistan.

What can you say to people who tell terrifying, heartrending stories about what happened to them when members of IS came to their homes? How do you respond to fathers who saw their daughters taken away, to children whose mothers were shot dead before their eyes? There is very little you can say, but a nurse named Shilan takes the time to listen to these people and to help them where she can.

She is a young Kurdish woman working as a volunteer for a Swedish hospital in a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Here, more than 20,000 Yazidis are living in tents in the mud. Each tent houses a story of loss, violence and hardship. When confronted by a young woman who refuses all contact with the outside world and won’t eat, Shilan takes action. In the conversations she has with the traumatized woman, Shilan’s own story gradually takes shape. This is a portrait of perseverance in the midst of insurmountable grief.

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