MTV Documentary Films has acquired North American rights to “Sabaya,” the story of volunteers of the Yazidi Home Center, who risk their lives in order to save women and girls held by ISIS as sex slaves.
The film received a directing award for world cinema documentary when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “Sabaya” is directed and produced by Stockholm-based filmmaker Hogir Hirori and also produced by Antonio Russo Merenda. In a rave review in Variety, Jessica Kiang wrote that the film was “gripping, harrowing, superb.”
MTV Documentary Films will qualify “Sabaya” for awards consideration and is targeting an early fall release. The company’s recent film, “76 Days,” a look at the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, was just shortlisted for a best documentary Oscar. MTV Documentary Films’s “Hunger Ward” was also shortlisted for best documentary short subject.
Here’s the logline: “Armed with just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and other volunteers from the Yazidi Home Center are on a mission to save Yazidi women and girls held captive by ISIS as Sabaya (sex slaves) in the most dangerous refugee camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria. Often accompanied by women infiltrators and working mostly at night, Mahmud and Ziyad must act extremely quickly to avoid potential violence. In this visceral, often edge-of-your-seat film, we experience both the tense situation in the camp and the comfort of daily life at home, where Mahmud’s wife, Siham, and his mother, Zahra, lovingly help the traumatized girls shed off the black garments of an ideology that tolerates nothing but itself.”
“I am so happy that ‘Sabaya’ is in the safe hands of Sheila Nevins and MTV Documentary Films,” said Hirori. “Sheila’s passionate response to the film was very encouraging to me and I am excited to know that the film and the important work of the Yazidi Home Center will be known to more people in the U.S. through their efforts.”
“Against the ravages of ISIS and the perpetuation of violence against women – captured, raped, and enslaved – two Yazidi men at risk of death, rescue, one by one, these traumatized women,” Nevins said. “The film is a portrait of unspeakable courage against insurmountable odds.”
“The bravery and heroism displayed by Mahmud, Ziyad and Hogir, all of whom put their lives at risk, is simply astounding,” said MTV Documentary Films co-heads Nina L. Diaz and Liza Burnett Fefferman. “We could not take our eyes off the screen and look forward to bringing this extraordinary, unflinching and urgent film to audiences.”
The film was written, shot and edited by Hirori with music by Mohammed Zaki. It is a production of Lolav Media and Ginestra Film in co-production with SVT with support from The Swedish Film Institute, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Film Stockholm/Fimbasen, in association with YLE and VGTV.
The sale was negotiated by Ana Vicente of Dogwoof on behalf of the filmmakers and Lance McPherson and Bahareh Kamali on behalf of MTV Documentary Films.