Mary McGuckian's A Girl From Mogadishu is a true story based on the United Nations testimony of Ifrah Ahmed (Aja Naomi King). Ahmed fled war-torn Somalia in 2006 and was trafficked to Ireland where, as an asylum-seeking refugee, she underwent a traumatic medical examination that revealed the remarkable extent to which she had experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) as a child. Though traumatized by the memory, Ahmed turns her experiences into a force for good and emerges as one of the world's foremost global activists against female genital mutilation.
An Official Selection of the 2019 Heartland International Film Festival, A Girl From Mogadishu is screening twice during the festival - Friday, Oct. 11th at 10am at AMC Castleton Square and Thursday, Oct. 17th at 5:15pm at AMC Showplace Traders Point 12.
A Girl From Mogadishu is a biopic utilizing frequent flashbacks and voiceovers, beginning when Ahmed was 17-years-old and had just managed to escape Somalia on her own without any identification, money, or a passport. With the help of an aunt already in Minnesota, Ahmed had money wired to a trafficker, Hassan (Barkhad Abdi). However, instead of sending her to the planned Minnesota detoured her to Ireland where her history of female genital mutilation was discovered.
With the assistance of Amala (Martha Canga Antonio), Ahmed was able to eventually learn how to speak English, read, write, and would begin studying female genital mutilation and, of course, eventually become an outspoken activist against the practice. She was granted Irish citizenship and would eventually return home to Somalia for difficult conversations with her grandmother (Maryam Mursal), whose basic explanation for the practice was simply that it was for the benefit of men.
A Girl From Mogadishu is ultimately a hopeful, empowering film but does contain sexual violence and mature themes. As Ahmed, Aja Naomi King is utterly sublime in capturing the young woman's initial vulnerability and eventual empowerment and growing into her strength and powerful voice. King bears a strong resemblance to Ahmed and has clearly captured her vibrance and physical presence.
Written and directed by Mary McGuckian, A Girl From Mogadishu may at times paint broad strokes of characterization but it tackles difficult subject matter with dignity and transparency. It's noted that McGuckian gained the majority of the material for her script by filming the real Ifrah Ahmed over the course of a couple days simply telling her story. That story became the story that unfolds in A Girl From Mogadishu.
McGuckian doesn't hold back in depicting the horror that is female genital mutilation, while A Girl From Mogadishu also tackles, to lesser degrees, such issues as gender-based violence, sexual assault, and treatment of those impacted by war and refugees. The film gets a little too paint-by-numbers in spots, but the message is so vital and vividly brought to life that one can easily forgive a few minor quibbles with the film.
For more information on Heartland International Film Festival, visit the Heartland Film website.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic