With just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and their group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls being held by ISIS as Sabaya (sex slaves) in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria.

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STORY

Guarded by Kurdish forces, 73,000 Daesh (ISIS) supporters are locked up in the Al-Hol Camp in northeastern Syria. Considered the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, it is situated amidst a volatile political and military reality where Daesh is still omnipresent. Five years ago, Daesh killed thousands of Yazidis in the Sinjar province of Iraq and abducted thousands of Yazidi women and girls to be held and sold as sex slaves – called Sabaya.
 
In SABAYA, Mahmud, Ziyad and other volunteers from the Yazidi Home Center rescue the Sabaya, who are still being held by Daesh in the camp. Continuously phoning, smoking and sometimes bickering, Mahmud and Ziyad systematically prepare their missions and know exactly who to look for, and where. Often accompanied by female infiltrators – some of them former Sabaya – and armed with nothing but an old mobile phone and a small gun, they travel to the camp in an inconspicuous van. Once there, mostly by night, they must act extremely quickly to avoid potential violence.
 
In this observational film, directed, shot and edited by acclaimed Swedish/Kurdish director Hogir Hirori, we experience first-hand the strong contrast between the tense situation in the camp and the comfort of daily life at home. Under the loving care of Mahmud’s wife, Siham, and his mother, Zahra, it might take a long time for the young women to heal, but perhaps one day the traumatized girls will also be strong enough to become brave female infiltrators themselves, helping to rescue even more Yazidi Sabaya from the claws of an ideology that tolerates nothing but itself.

PRODUCTION FACTS

International title: SABAYA
Production year: 2021
Running time: 91 minutes
Country of origin: Sweden
Language: Kurdish, Arabic
Subtitles: English
Format: DPC 2K, HD 25p
Sound: 5.1, Stereo
Release: Sundance Film Festival 2021, World Cinema Documentary Competition

HOGIR HIRORI - DIRECTOR

Hogir Hirori was born in 1980 in Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1999, he fled to Sweden and has lived since then in Stockholm. He works as a freelance photographer, editor and director and runs his own production company, Lolav Media. Hogir’s most recent work, The Deminer, had its world premiere at IDFA 2017, where it received the Special Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film has since travelled to more than 50 international film festivals and aired on more than 30 broadcasters worldwide.

ANTONIO RUSSO MERENDA - PRODUCER

Originally from Italy, Antonio Russo Merenda moved to Stockholm in 1993 where he founded Hysteria Film, which he ran for 15 years. Antonio started his production company Ginestra Film in 2012 and served as Documentary Film Commissioner at the Swedish Film Institute between 2015-2017. Antonio’s productions have been aired on broadcasters worldwide, selected by major international film festivals and received awards such as the VPRO Award for Best Documentary Feature with Don Juan (IDFA 2015), the Special Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature for The Deminer (IDFA 2017) as well as the Golden Dove with Vodka Factory (DokLeipzig 2010) and with
Colombianos (DokLeipzig 2012). With Hysteria Film, Antonio was involved in the production of Searching for Sugar Man , the 2013 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature.
With just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and their group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls being held by ISIS as Sabaya (sex slaves) in the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria.
Image

STORY

Guarded by Kurdish forces, 73,000 Daesh (ISIS) supporters are locked up in the Al-Hol Camp in northeastern Syria. Considered the most dangerous camp in the Middle East, it is situated amidst a volatile political and military reality where Daesh is still omnipresent. Five years ago, Daesh killed thousands of Yazidis in the Sinjar province of Iraq and abducted thousands of Yazidi women and girls to be held and sold as sex slaves – called Sabaya.
 
In SABAYA, Mahmud, Ziyad and other volunteers from the Yazidi Home Center rescue the Sabaya, who are still being held by Daesh in the camp. Continuously phoning, smoking and sometimes bickering, Mahmud and Ziyad systematically prepare their missions and know exactly who to look for, and where. Often accompanied by female infiltrators – some of them former Sabaya – and armed with nothing but an old mobile phone and a small gun, they travel to the camp in an inconspicuous van. Once there, mostly by night, they must act extremely quickly to avoid potential violence.
 
In this observational film, directed, shot and edited by acclaimed Swedish/Kurdish director Hogir Hirori, we experience first-hand the strong contrast between the tense situation in the camp and the comfort of daily life at home. Under the loving care of Mahmud’s wife, Siham, and his mother, Zahra, it might take a long time for the young women to heal, but perhaps one day the traumatized girls will also be strong enough to become brave female infiltrators themselves, helping to rescue even more Yazidi Sabaya from the claws of an ideology that tolerates nothing but itself.

PRODUCTION FACTS

International title: SABAYA
Production year: 2021
Running time: 91 minutes
Country of origin: Sweden
Language: Kurdish, Arabic
Subtitles: English
Format: DCP 2K, HD 25p
Sound: 5.1, Stereo
Release: Sundance Film Festival 2021, World Cinema Documentary Competition

HOGIR HIRORI - DIRECTOR

Hogir Hirori was born in 1980 in Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1999, he fled to Sweden and has lived since then in Stockholm. He works as a freelance photographer, editor and director and runs his own production company, Lolav Media. Hogir’s most recent work, The Deminer, had its world premiere at IDFA 2017, where it received the Special Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature. The film has since travelled to more than 50 international film festivals and aired on more than 30 broadcasters worldwide.

ANTONIO RUSSO MERENDA - PRODUCER

Originally from Italy, Antonio Russo Merenda moved to Stockholm in 1993 where he founded Hysteria Film, which he ran for 15 years. Antonio started his production company Ginestra Film in 2012 and served as Documentary Film Commissioner at the Swedish Film Institute between 2015-2017. Antonio’s productions have been aired on broadcasters worldwide, selected by major international film festivals and received awards such as the VPRO Award for Best Documentary Feature with Don Juan (IDFA 2015), the Special Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature for The Deminer (IDFA 2017) as well as the Golden Dove with Vodka Factory (DokLeipzig 2010) and with
Colombianos (DokLeipzig 2012). With Hysteria Film, Antonio was involved in the production of Searching for Sugar Man , the 2013 Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature.

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written and directed by Hogir Hirori
producers Antonio Russo Merenda, Hogir Hirori
based on an idea by Lorin Ibrahim
director of photography and editor Hogir Hirori

music Mohammed Zaki
researcher Guevara Namer
sound design and mix Jens Kihlen
graphic design Rasti Hirori

translation Hanna Valenta, Shoresh Ibrahim
color grading Andreas Söderberg
editing consultant Rough Cut Service, Iikka Vehkalahti & Erez Laufer

a production by
Lolav Media info@lolav.com
and
Ginestra Film info@ginestrafilm.se

in co-production with SVT commissioning editor Axel Arnö

with support from
The Swedish Film Institute, film commissioner Juan Pablo Libossart
Nordisk Film & TV Fond, documentary advisor Karolina Lidin
Film Stockholm / Fimbasen, film commissioner Ivana Lalovic

in association with
YLE commissioning editor Erkko Lyytinen
VGTV commissioning editor Andreas Gjellebæk Sverdrup
festival advisor Sara Rüster, The Swedish Film Institute

world sales
Dogwoof

Head of Sales
Ana Vicente ana@dogwoof.com

Festivals Manager
Luke Brawley luke@dogwoof.com

International Publicity
Yung Kha, Dogwoof yung@dogwoof.com

Publicity at Sundance
Susan Norget publicity@norget.com
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Copyright © 2021 LOLAV MEDIA. All Rights Reserved.