A Girl from Mogadishu
A Girl from Mogadishu, the heartening biopic of FGM activist Ifrah Ahmed, kicks off with her breathlessly tense escape from wartime Somalia as a teenager in 2006. Ifrah ultimately settled in Ireland, where she founded the NGO’s Ifrah Foundation and United Youth of Ireland.
The film is harrowing – and the lead’s plight is exacerbated by many obstacles, from traffickers to language barriers to the uncertainty of her fate in the hands of her chaperone Hassan (performed by Oscar nominee Barkhad Abdi). Ifrah arrives in Dublin and stays in asylum with other refugees, including fellow Somalian Amala (played by Belgian actress Martha Canga Antonio). The protgaonist undergoes a character transformation after a medical examination prompts her to confront the childhood memory of being victim to female genital mutilation.
The second half of the movie takes on a life of its own as it becomes an inspiring tale of turning pain into power, galvanising hope and action. The heroine, now fluent in English and working through her trauma, campaigns throughout Ireland, speaking out against the international practise of FGM and protesting until she’s speaking in front of the United Nations.
Each chapter of this remarkable life is swiftly depicted and the somewhat hurried storytelling leaves the viewer questioning whether writer-director Mary McGuckian would have been better able to share this epic journey as a miniseries. All of the little episodes have compelling material pertaining to Ifrah’s stirring development, but the impact would be more profound if there was more time dedicated to the details. Consequently, the filmmaker has to incorporate narration into the script to fill in the blanks of context and internal behaviour.
However, what ultimately powers the feature is Aja Naomi King in the central role. The How to Get Away with Murder star brilliantly portrays Ifrah throughout every stage of her life and pushes her dramatic acting limits as her character goes through the highest of highs (her rousing speeches in front of world leaders) and the lowest of lows (breaking down as she relates the story of how she was forcibly circumcised). A series of pictures at the end credits show that the actress met with her real-life counterpart during the production, so it makes sense that King was able to excellently pay tribute through her rendition.
Whilst the work has its structural flaws, A Girl from Mogadishu rings true with good intent and passion, as exemplified in the lead performance.
A Girl From Mogadishu is released digitally on 4th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for A Girl From Mogadishu here: