SXSW 2018: On Her Shoulders

Yazidi refugee and activist Nadia Murad in On Her Shoulders, directed by Alexandria Bombach. Courtesy of RYOT Films.

As the film continues to play on the festival circuit, On Her Shoulders is one of the best documentaries of the year.  Having already earned a directing prize for Alexandria Bombach at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, the film hits up SXSW as a festival favorite to tell Nadia Murad’s story.

Only 23 at the time, Nadia Murad, working with Yazda, gave a voice to the voiceless by testifying at the United Nations.  Think about it.  This is a young woman who is barely into her 20s and has already been through so much in a short amount of years.  Instead of living her life as she should be, she’s thrust into the spotlight as a high-profile activist instead.  This isn’t a job for her in as much as it is “a request for help.”

In August 2014, the world watched in silence as the Yazidis were the victims of genocide in Northern Iraq as the ISIS terrorists killed some 5,000 in the weeks to come.  They would go on to take over 7,000 women and children and turn them into sex slaves and child soldiers.  ISIS captured Nadia on the same day that her mother and six brothers were killed.  Of her entire family, there were eighteen members who were killed or taken as slaves.  In her village alone, there were 700 people killed only 15 men survived.

The Yazidis are a religious minority in Iraq that are historically persecuted.  I think back to the summer of 2014 and the only people talking about them were my Jewish friends.  Yet nobody was doing anything to save them at the time.  Some time after that, Nadia would give a face to this minority and tell her story to whoever would listen on the international stage, be it journalists, politicians, or diplomats.

Bombach, who also serves as the documentary’s cinematographer, takes us behind the scenes of Nadia’s life as she deals with everything that comes with being an advocate on the international stage.  Amid all of Nadia’s advocacy work for her people, it’s no surprise that it takes a toll on her well-being.  Through Bombach’s filming, viewers get to know more about who the young Yazidi woman is and what her life’s goals are.

Make no mistake, On Her Shoulders is a film that ought to be on every shortlist for Best Documentary Feature given the importance of the subject content.  Nadia Murad is a young woman that ought to be commended for her bravery for being thrust into the spotlight when she just wanted to live a normal life.

DIRECTOR: Alexandria Bombach
FEATURING: Nadia Murad

After making its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, On Her Shoulders screens at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival as a part of the Festival Favorites program.  Oscilloscope Laboratories will release the film later this year.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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