Director Hogir Hirori / 2021 / Sweden

Viewer advice: Contains themes of sexual violence

Winner of the 2021 Sundance Directing Award for World Cinema Documentary, this daring film tracks a band of volunteers out to rescue ISIS sex slaves from an infamous Syrian border camp.

It’s a harrowing story: in the notorious Al-Hol refugee camp in north-eastern Syria, ISIS supporters abducted thousands of Yazidi women – many of them teenagers and young girls – to be held and sold as sex slaves, or sabaya. In his bold and breathless documentary, Iraqi-born, Sweden-based filmmaker Hogir Hirori follows a small group of Yazidi volunteers, whom he dubs “inflitrators”, as they risk their lives in an attempt to free these women and girls and reunite them with their families.

Sabaya is both a feat of immersive, often dangerous filmmaking – at one point, Hirori’s camera is hidden behind the veil of a niqab – and an unobtrusive, almost observational account of its subjects, a distance that gives them agency over what they choose to reveal. And while the film is frequently confronting, it is also a remarkable story of resilience and heroism in the face of gruesome inhumanity.

“Gripping, harrowing, superb … Hogir Hirori’s startling Sabaya is an intense, deeply embedded documentary.” – Variety

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