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A Girl From Mogadishu wins Woman's Empowerment' Award at the Berlin Film Festival Cinema for Peace Gala
26 Feb 2020 : News Desk
A Girl From Mogadishu
Mary McGuckian’s feature film won the The Cinema for Peace Woman’s Empowerment’ Award at the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin on February 23rd.

Supported by Screen Ireland, the award-winning Irish film had already picked up the audience and jury awards at the French Semaines de Cinema Britannique in advance of the 2020 Berlin Film Festival

Based on the testimony of global FGM activist Ifrah Ahmed, the film is written and directed by Mary McGuckian. Fleeing war-torn Somalia in 2006, Ifrah Ahmed is trafficked to Ireland where a traumatic medical examination when seeking asylum reveals the extent of her mutilation as a child.  Traumatized by the memory, she channels the experience into a force for change and emerges as a formidable campaigner against Female Genital Mutilation at the highest political echelons.

A Girl from Mogadishu stars Aja Naomi King (How to Get Away with Murder, Birth of a Nation) as global FGM/C activist Ifrah Ahmed, Martha Cango Antonio (Black) and Barkhad Abdi (Blade Runner, Eye of the Storm, Captain Phillips), Orla Brady (Picard, Rose Plays Julie) as well as Somali icon, Maryam Mursal with an original score by Nitin Sawhney and featuring Quiet by Milck.

Recipient to date of the Mill Valley 42nd edition World Cinema Award in the US shared with Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, A Girl from Mogadishu also recently picked up both the audience and jury awards at the French Semaines de Cinema Britannique in advance of its cinema release in April.

At the Berlin Film Festival, Vanessa Redgrave received the Cinema for Peace Foundation lifetime achievement award and Gerald Butler was honoured for his humanitarian work in Africa.  In other categories, 1917 won best film for peace, The Cave won best documentary, Official Secrets won best political film and Watson won best international green film. A Girl from Mogadishu was originally nominated alongside Harriet, Knock Down the House, Bombshell, Maiden and Little Women, and the award was presented to writer/director Mary McGuckian.

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Speaking about the news, director Mary McGuckian said:

“When we celebrate female heroes in cinema – we not only amplify their voices – we empower audiences to be touched and emboldened by their courage.  For Cinema for Peace Foundation to recognize the value for young women and girls in identifying with courageous characters such as Ifrah is an important step in rebalancing the gender inequity of female representation on screen. A Girl from Mogadishu is a film ‘for, by and about women’ by definition and I cannot think of a more auspicious and appropriate honour.”

Ifrah Ahmed added:

“A Girl from Mogadishu is based on my story - but it is also the story of the 200 million women and girls worldwide who have suffered the consequences of Female Genital Mutilation. And while the movie is intended to focus attention on the barbarity and scale of the practice, its ambition is also to empower all young women and girls to have the courage to stand up and speak out. So I am delighted that the movie has received this award.”

The Cinema for Peace Foundation’s mission is to foster change through film. Since 2001, the initiative has honoured films that influence the perception of global social, political and humanitarian challenges. Supporting important causes is key to the initiative and past honourees include artists such as Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and personalities such as The Dalai Lama, Muhamad Ali, Bill, and Hillary Clinton and former honorary patron Nelson Mandela.

At its Los Angeles Cinema for Peace Heroes luncheon celebrating the heroes of the 2020 nominated films, Ifrah Ahmed on whose story A Girl from Mogadishu is based, was honoured along-side Daniel J. Jones, Captain Paul Watson of Green Peace, Bryan Stevenson, Maxima Acuna, Megan Kelly, and Gretchen Carlson, Buzz Aldrin, Richard Jewell Tracy Edwards, Cynthia Garrett and Peggy Sheeran whose stories were told respectively in the films The Report by Scott Burns, Watson by Lesley Chilcott, Just Mercy by Daniel Cretton, Dark Waters by Todd Haynes, Maxima by Claudia Sparrow, Bombshell by Jay Roach, Apollo 11 by Tod Miller, Richard Jewell by Clint Eastwood, Maiden by Alex Holmes, The Banker by George Nolfi and The Irishman by Martin Scorsese.

The 2019 Cinema for Peace Foundation awards went to Capernaum, RGB, Watergate, and The Elephant Queen. Previous Irish honourees have included Terry George in 2005 for Hotel Rwanda, Bob Geldof for his humanitarian work in 2007 and Liam Neeson and James Nesbit for Five Minutes of Heaven in 2010. 

A Girl from Mogadishu will be released in Ireland on April 3rd, 2020, following a charity premiere in Dublin in aid of the Ifrah Foundation on March 24th.  There will be a special screening at the IFI followed by a Q&A with director Mary McGuckian and Ifrah Ahmed on the evening of April 3rd.

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