• R, 2 hr.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:    Sherry Horman
  • In Theaters:    Mar 18, 2011 Wide
  • On DVD:    Jul 19, 2011
  • National Geographic Entertainment

Desert Flower Reviews

Page 1 of 9
Cynthia S
Super Reviewer
December 5, 2011
Very terrible subject. Well done little movie. I remember this subject being in the headlines many years ago...now I know why. I sure hope that this horrifying practice in other countries of circumcising women is done with. Good lord what a world!!
Harlequin68 Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
½ March 27, 2011
"Desert Flower" starts with Waris(Liya Kebede) walking out of a doorway into pedestrian traffic in London in traditional dress. Homeless, she has little choice but to sleep on the streets and dig in the garbage for any scraps of food she can find. That's not to mention her attempt at shoplifting going badly awry, alerting an employee, Marylin(Sally Hawkins). However, Marylin takes pity on the woman from Somalia, putting her up in her room, giving her a lead on a job at a burger bar and even donating her down jacket to the cause. While at the fast food restaurant, it is not Waris' mopping abilities that catch the attention of Donaldson(Timothy Spall) but her cheekbones, since he is a photographer and gives her his card. As a form of celebrating, the women go dancing where Waris meets Harry(Anthony Mackie) from New York. Later that night, the friends make disturbing discoveries about each other.

Even with a couple of subplots that go nowhere, "Desert Flower" is a compelling movie that puts a spotlight on the very serious problem of female genital mutilation in the developing world. Amongst other things, Winston Churchill was wrong when he said history is written by the victors. It is written by the survivors, Waris being a prime example, after her ordeal and journey from Somalia. And throughout the movie Waris gets increasingly more comfortable with herself and less ashamed of her body. Unlike her friend Marylin, grace and talent come naturally to Waris, inferring that she was meant to become famous enough to take control of her own narrative to tell her story to millions while Donaldson takes little advantage of any fame as a photographer. All of which got me thinking of a conversation I had with a friend after Elizabeth Taylor's death this week. She mentioned that Taylor through her celebrity had brought in more money for AIDS research than her films did.
Jeffrey M
Super Reviewer
November 3, 2012
Desert Flower is a great biopic film that aims for a specific message, and delivers that message powerfully and to great effect. The tale it seeks to lay out works on a number of levels. From a rags to riches story, it succeeds, with very moving and well integrated flashbacks, contrasted with a much different, though still quite flawed, modern day London. Where the film really makes an impact, however, is with the horrendous, but all to believable, subject of female genital mutilation. This is handled with grace, the film doesn't hit you over the head with how terrible it is, but instead chooses to go the more subtle route, not showing its hand until we care enough about the character and her journey to really feel impacted.

Though the film does occasionally stumble on tone, the script is largely well done, and so is the direction and composition, one that straddles the line between the different themes fairly well. It's also acted impressively, with Liya Kebede delivering a strong performance.

Though the ending may come across as a bit conventional and too direct, the film never loses its heart, and conveys what it seeks to in an effective manner, making it a strong and memorable drama.

4/5 Stars
Nicolas K
Super Reviewer
½ April 8, 2010
Waris Dirie must be an amazing woman. There is evidence shown through snippets of horrific moments in her life. The problem with the film is, that there is too much attention to her modelling career and the difficulties she encountered as a model, than her actual struggle with her background, her body and the transformation from a victim to a voice of of hope for others. Sally Hawkins' character although important to the plot is setting a silly tone to a serious issue.
iLeo iLeo
Super Reviewer
February 21, 2011
"The extraordinary true story of the woman who crossed a desert and changed the world."

Desert Flower, a film directed by Sherry Hormann, is based upon Waris Dirie's autobiographical account (also from the same title). Waris Dirie collectively, and remarkably, depicts various definitive events that mark her personal journey from nomadic childhood living in the Somali desert to the luxurious lifestyle of being a former international supermodel. At the height of her career, she expresses her views and own personal experience about "the day that her life changed" in an interview with Marie Claire magazine. Above all, she emphasized upon an atrocity inflicted upon young girls in a most cruel and mutilating cultural practice. As a UN spokeswoman, she advocates for the end of female circumcision.

Escaping an arranged marriage to an older man at the age of 13, young Waris treks through the desert to the capital, Mogadishu. It is there that she finds both her aunt and grandmother. After learning of her plight, they secure a housekeeping position for her with a wealthy family in the Somali Embassy in London. Leaving behind her mother and siblings, she travels to England all alone. After several years, her grandmother's premonition holds true. Civil war eventually breaks out in Somalia. After the Somali Embassy closes in London, an elder Waris is left behind and struggles to survive on the streets of London. In a departmental store, she meets Marilyn McKeene who eventually becomes her lifelong friend. Marilyn and Waris are total opposites, and various antics of Marilyn continually shock Waris. Cultural, social, and gender differences mark numerous hurdles for Waris. However, in Marilyn, Waris finds solace, comfort, and a sister.

Liya Kebede, Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, Craig Parkinson, and Anthony Mackie stars; a most impressive performance by young Soraya Omar-Scego. The film's main theme is a beautiful music composition performed by Martin Todsharow. This is a most powerfully driven drama that will leave not an eye dry.
Ida K
Super Reviewer
½ October 16, 2011
This movie profiles the life of model Waris Dirie. She was born in Somalia and lived a nomadic life in the desert. The custom over there is to mutilate a girl's genitalia at an early age to make them "pure". Many of the girls (including her sister) don't even survive this assault due to hemorrhage or infection.

Her mother tried to marry her off (as a 4th wife) to an old man when she was only 13. She escaped her village and managed to get a job at the Somali Embassy in London, where some wealthy relatives lived. After the war broke out in Somalia, the embassy closed. She didn't want to go back so she lived on the streets as an illegal while working at a McDonalds.

It was there that she was discovered by famous photographer Terence Donovan in the mid 80s. She goes on to became a successful model but the real story is about her crusade to help end female circumcision. She eventually quit her career to become a UN Ambassador to help end this barbaric practice. This movie definitely made an impact on me and I'm glad I'm a US citizen!
Brendan R May 8, 2014
A movie about a controversial issue. However, it was predictable.
Frances H February 11, 2014
Moving film about the plight of women in third world countries and a young girl who fought her fate to make herself a name in the West, and used her fame as a platform to fight against the mutilation she had suffered, from which she wished to protect further generations. A worthy film.
Luís Fernando B December 30, 2013
Comove pela história de superação e pela forte denúncia feita contra o ritual da circuncisão feminina. Entretanto, peca pelo desenvolvimento superficial de certos acontecimentos da vida de Waris, sendo que os conflitos desta perante às novas culturas poderiam ser melhor trabalhados. Mas em geral, a força da história e de sua bela protagonista garantem uma interessante sessão.
Nigel H ½ November 25, 2013
A young girl escaping the poverty and horrors of her life in Africa becomes a top model barely before she has had time to learn the language. An amazing story that needs little else but to be told. The film does just that and gives us something compelling, moving and vitally relevant.
Atish N R July 27, 2013
Nice movie, but feels like the movie was just some 'facts' that had to be 'enclosed' within the movie (w.r.t to the book). Plus having read a bit on about circumcision, feels like this movie might be not just impartial, but bigoted. Nonetheless, I verdict to it a 3point2.
Agata K ½ September 14, 2011
Crazy story and pleasant to watch.
Jeffrey M
Super Reviewer
November 3, 2012
Desert Flower is a great biopic film that aims for a specific message, and delivers that message powerfully and to great effect. The tale it seeks to lay out works on a number of levels. From a rags to riches story, it succeeds, with very moving and well integrated flashbacks, contrasted with a much different, though still quite flawed, modern day London. Where the film really makes an impact, however, is with the horrendous, but all to believable, subject of female genital mutilation. This is handled with grace, the film doesn't hit you over the head with how terrible it is, but instead chooses to go the more subtle route, not showing its hand until we care enough about the character and her journey to really feel impacted.

Though the film does occasionally stumble on tone, the script is largely well done, and so is the direction and composition, one that straddles the line between the different themes fairly well. It's also acted impressively, with Liya Kebede delivering a strong performance.

Though the ending may come across as a bit conventional and too direct, the film never loses its heart, and conveys what it seeks to in an effective manner, making it a strong and memorable drama.

4/5 Stars
Jan N ½ June 10, 2012
A really emotional film. Definitely gives you new perspectives about different cultures. TOP 10
Agata G August 4, 2012
Sugary story with some non-developed parts of fable. Heart-stopping memoir turned into sobby chick flick.
Jessica L. Jessica L. August 26, 2012
"Dessert Flower" was a very intriguing movie that many should see. It starts off about a Somalian nomad girl (Liya Kebede) who runs away from Africa when she is thirteen to flee from being married off. She ends up later on meeting and living with another woman who is a dancer ( Sally Hawkins), a quirky free spirit. Later on in the movie she ends up becoming an American supermodel after being discovered by the very talented photographer Terry Donaldson (Timothy Spall).
However, even though the story is about a young woman who becomes a supermodel there is much more to the story which is the story of her being 3 years old and getting circumcised because of her culture. The movie really is about how that takes place in many of the Somalian's homes when a girl is born and the movie is really trying to emphasize this problem in the world. The supermodel later becomes a UN spokeswoman against circumcision. The story is based off of the woman Waris Dirie.
Haritha M ½ April 27, 2012
This movie is the epitome of an inspiring story told in the most insipid way possible.
Magda G February 17, 2012
The movie itself is nothing special, but the topic it broaches is of a great importance, and my beloved Sally Hawkins acts in it...
Wayne I November 29, 2011
Fantastic true story, a real eye opener!
Mirkku M ½ May 16, 2010
Important message, mediocre implementation (at best). I wonder if the book is better?
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