From Refugee to Runway Model

National Geographic's “Desert Flower” is something of a late bloomer: It debuted in 2009, but only now it is getting the attention it deserves. The film opened at the E Street Cinema (555 11th St. N.W.) Friday, telling the harrowing tale of Somalian Waris Dirie, who undergoes female circumcism at age three, is sold into marriage at 13 -- and ends up as an American supermodel.

After you watch the film, you will wonder whether -- despite a natural love for one’s mother -- Dirie ever resented her mother for perpetuating the cultural ritual of female mutilation.

“We talked about it,“ Horman said. “They have a sensitive relationship. They have different approaches, but I guess they are carried by love. Don't forget young Waris risked a lot to escape from [her] arranged marriage; the price was paid already.”

Horman came to this project as a filmmaker, not a women’s right activist. “I am a filmmaker and I will stick to that, but... to witness silently that the movie can achieve [change] in the minds of the people is very moving."

"We went back to Djibouti and screened it in the middle of the desert," Horman said. "We had an Arabic man who simultaneously translated the English sections into Somali. We expected 800 people, but 4,000 people showed up. At the end it was almost quiet. A Nomad father stood up and said, 'I am a father of six girls. At home we don't talk about how this is done. I don't want my daughters to be hurt. This has to stop!' Another 23 men got up and agreed."

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