In war-torn Somalia in 2006, a young woman named Ifrah Ahmed (Aja Naomi King) flees from her husband, a 50 year-old she was forced to marry when she was only 15. She manages to escape the country and though initially attempting to go to America, where she is meant to unite with her aunt, she instead winds up in Ireland. There, she seeks asylum as a refugee. Soon a medical examination reveals she endured horrific genital mutilation. As Ifrah learns more about FGM, she becomes determined to transform her trauma into political action.
‘A Girl from Mogadishu’ effectively establishes the horrors of war from the outset. Ifrah is one of many civilians running all around, terrified, chased by men armed with guns, driving ecstatically through the streets. Her journey to Ireland makes for another gripping chapter, as what she is attempting is so dangerous and risky. When she makes it to Dublin, one sighs with relief, and the asylum seekers she meets act officially but not unfriendly. Next is the chapter where we learn the full extent of the physical and emotional trauma Ifrah has endured, which proves a very unsettling and upsetting watch.
In supporting roles are the likes of Barkhad Abdi, who audiences may remember from ‘Captain Phillips’, and Pauline McLynn of ‘Father Ted’ fame. But really the feature belongs to Aja Naomi King (‘How to Get Away With Murder’), depicting the incredible true life story of Ifrah Ahmed. She is excellent, conveying the initial vulnerability and dependency of Ifrah, then her impassioned, confident presence as she emerges as a political advocate. The indignance and sorrow Ifrah feels are also beautifully portrayed.
Ifrah’s life is portrayed episodically as moments such as learning to speak English, drawing strength and support from other asylum seekers, and meeting Emer Costello (played very well by Orla Brady here) make for punctuating chapters. We see Ifrah leading protests, commanding audiences with her impressive oration skills, talking about the power of social media (both its bright and dark sides), and return to Somalia. While it can be quite a distressing watch, and you can feel the budgetary constraints at times, this remains a highly commendable watch, and hopeful as well as inspiring.