Visions du Réel 2023 Review: HAWAR, OUR BANISHED CHILDREN, Yazidi Mothers' Perilous Journeys
Directed by Pascale Bourgaux, the documentary sheds light on the heartrending and clandestine journeys of Yazidi mothers to save their children after being forced to leave them behind.
In Hawar, Our Banished Children, director Pascale Bourgaux delves into the harrowing experiences of Yazidi mothers forced to abandon their children, born as a result of rape by members of the Islamic State. The initial joy of these women's rescue from captivity is swiftly overshadowed by grief when community elders compel them to leave their children behind, unwilling to raise "the offspring of their enemies".
Bourgaux follows Ana, a Yazidi survivor of sexual slavery, as she embarks on a covert journey across Kurdistan to reunite with her daughter Marya after four long years of separation. Through Ana's story, this road documentary exposes the seldom-discussed fate of children born from rape by jihadists and unveils the intricate layers of secrecy, hypocrisy, and struggle within the Yazidi and Kurdish communities.
Hawar, Our Banished Children is a journalistic documentary that reveals the hidden realities of a community through the lens of an anonymous protagonist. The film uncovers the dual victimization that these women face, both within their own community and at the hands of external patriarchal forces.
The documentary unveils, indirectly, the distressing life forced upon these women among jihadists, including confronting the parents of her captor. Ana shares little-known and rarely-publicized details about her ongoing trauma, which persists even after her return home.
Ana's quest to rescue her daughter serves as a poignant example of the countless women who have been torn from their children. Bourgaux continues to document the efforts to save other children left behind through no fault of their own. The personal narratives evolve into a broader human rights issue, as organizations work to reunite mothers with their children at the cost of leaving their own communities and families for good.
The film features heartrending scenes of Yazidi mothers reuniting with their children after extended separations. Mothers are overwhelmed with emotion, while their children appear confused and frightened, unable to recognize their own mothers.
Bourgaux recounts the challenges she faced in completing the documentary, which was in production from 2014 to 2022, due to the secrecy surrounding the subject matter. Eventually, she uncovers clandestine initiatives led by Kurds, Swedes, Americans, and even some Yazidis, all striving to help these mothers.
Hawar, Our Banished Children portrays the stark reality of war's aftermath and the resilience of mothers grappling with the ongoing trauma.
The film recently enjoyed its world premiere at the Visions du Reel International Film Festival in Nyon, Switzerland.