On Her Shoulders

Today I witnessed the emotional masterpiece that is On Her Shoulders by Alexandria Bombach. The film explores many crucial ideas about Yazidi culture, European culture, and identity. One concept that I really liked was the idea that documentary film can be therapeutic for the subject. Throughout the film, Bombach captures the raw emotion of Nadia and upon seeing how many places Nadia visited I noticed something remarkable. Nadia, while emotional at times, was for the most part very reserved and strong. When Nadia visited refugee camps in Greece and noticed other women crying, she immediately went to their aid and gave them hope. Although she is reminded constantly of what happened to her and her family, she is able to tell her story with such audacity that she has made the subject easier to talk about. Another theme that stuck out to me was this idea of community. Even though everything has been taken from the Yazidi people, they still persevere as a cultural entity. They hold their identity, their culture, and their faith to the utmost importance. They believe that without their religious or cultural identity, then they don’t have an identity. I am fascinated by this concept that our geographical identity is less important than our cultural identity. Essentially a community values its morals more than what they have access to. Whether it be freshwater, crops, strip malls, everyone in the community circles back to their cultural roots. Similarly, in Cynthia Hill’s A Chef’s Life, she explores southern identity through ingredients. But there is more to be said about Hill’s creative process. She shows that southern identity is not only shown by the food you eat, or where you live, or what you believe, but rather something deeper. She’s trying to show the amount of kindness they show for one another. She’s trying to show the relevance of each ingredient and where it comes from. She’s telling stories through food. What I believe sets these filmmakers apart from others is there use of showing and describing events, rather than doing formalized interviews with the main subjects. They are truly interested in developing legitimate relationships with the characters. And, I think that’s what makes their films so meaningful.

~ Sam Grant

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