Movie Review: ‘Desert Flower’

Published by Clay Cane on Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 11:57 am.

Summary: The biopic of Waris Dirie, a model from Somalia who became an international star. The story follows her incredible journey, from her upbringing in a desert in Africa, to female circumcision and its longstanding effects, to homelessness and eventually her dreams coming true.

Review: Desert Flower is a once-in-a-lifetime story. This is not your typical fashion movie, packed with narcissism and eating disorders. Waris Dirie’s powerful life, which she detailed in her biography of the same name, tugs right at your heart, whether or not you’re interested in the modeling world. Directed by German filmmaker Sherry Hormann, Desert Flower is a superbly told story with unapologetic conviction, noticeable fire, and the purest intentions of moving your soul.

Despite creaky transitions from high-fashion modeling to the deserts of Somalia, Desert Flower has a clear, engaging direction. Each scene blends into the next, whether it’s the horrors of female circumcision or a young girl surviving the brutality of living in the third world; Hormann gives the viewer a vivid journey.

Ethiopian model Liya Kebede stars as Waris. One might think a model playing another model in a biopic isn’t much of a stretch. However, Kebede gives a breakthrough performance, leaving the glamour on the catwalk. Her walk, her talk, and the vulnerable look in her eyes are everything a great performance is made of; she has certainly earned the right to be called an actress.

The film also includes the always polished Anthony Mackie as her potential boyfriend and Sally Hawkins as her kooky roommate.

Desert Flower is not your typical “message” flick. Being that the main focus is female circumcision, no matter how great the film is, some audiences will not want to see it. Most importantly, this is Dirie’s life—she is not condemning the culture, only asking for education and evolution. The most serious moment is the reenactment of Dirie being circumcised as a three-year old girl, which is difficult to watch. As in 2009’s Precious, the abuse is recounted with compassion and cinematic sensitivity.

Presented by National Geographic Entertainment, this is the first must-see movie of the year. With complaints that not enough black films were released in 2010, we have already started the new year on a high note with Desert Flower. Hopefully by this time next year, the creators of this unforgettable flick will get the recognition they deserve during awards season.

Desert Flower opens in select cities Friday, March 18.

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