New Feature Documentary Film About Female Genital Mutilation in Iraq
‘Handful of Ash’ to Breakdown the Wall of Silence about FGM
(6 Feb, 2011)— The Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos) will provide partial financial support for a new feature length documentary film about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Iraq. The new film ‘Handful of Ash’ will expose the silent epidemic of FGM in Iraq, particularly in Kurdistan.
The co-directors Mr. Nabaz Faraj and Ms. Sama Muhamed, Iraqi filmmakers in Kurdistan, are basing this new film on a short they made on the same subject. The feature film will examine the issue in a wider geographic area and will also follow the stories of mothers contemplating whether to cut their daughters and the activists trying to stop them.
Female genital mutilation or FGM, as practiced in Iraqi Kurdistan, involves removing the clitoris in the belief that it lessens women’s sexual desire and preserves their honor before marriage. This surgery done in a non-clinical setting without anesthesia leads to some victims dying from infections or bleeding. Although many outside Iraq are unaware, FGM is common in Kurdistan, with as high as 80% of Kurdish females in some regions mutilated. There is also some evidence that FGM exists in other parts of Iraq outside Kurdistan as well. This new film explores the physical, psychological, sociological, political trauma of FGM. It is produced by Wadi, a German-Iraqi NGO dedicated to stopping the practice. This new film will put a global spotlight on FGM in Iraq, and the filmmakers want it to spark international and local pressure to outlaw this practice.
‘FGM, honour killing, and other forms of mistreatment, are symptoms of the plight of women in Kurdish society. Without being treated with equality, dignity and rights, women are trapped as second-class citizens, unable to fully participate in democracy, governance, and civic life,’ said Ms. Jessie Hexspoor, Programme Officer for Gender, Women and Development at Hivos, a Dutch NGO. ‘This film can therefore contribute positively towards the transformation of Iraqi society,’ she added.
As part of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, the filmmakers will hold a special screening of their short about FGM at the Sardam Gellery in Sulaimanyah in Iraqi Kurdistan at 15:00, followed by a discussion about the issue. International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is a UN-sponsored awareness day that takes places every year on Feb. 6.
The co-directors Mr. Nabaz Faraj and Ms. Sama Muhamed have been active in social issues in Iraq and work at the Rojhelat TV station in Kurdistan. Dr. John Chua serves as a producer and editorial advisor on the new film. He teaches film and video production at Richmond, the American International University in London, and has produced and directed documentaries shown on PBS and the History Channel. Mr. Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, co-founder of Wadi, will serve as an executive producer on the new film.
‘A Handful of Ash’ will be completed by autumn of 2011 and will be available for selection by festivals, distributors and television networks worldwide. An excerpt from the film can be downloaded at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sb_1uTd_sA.
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