Sundance Film Festival (2021) – Official Selection

SA Premiere



Hogir Hirori


Sweden | Syria



Running Time:

91 min


Kurdish, Arabic

Relentlessly gripping and at times uncomfortably tense, Sabaya has the feel of embedded journalism, as the film captures the ongoing efforts of Syrian activists Mahmud and Ziyad to rescue Yazidi women enslaved by ISIS as ‘sabaya sex slaves’ in the notorious Al-Hol refugee camp on the Iraqi border. From edge-of-the-seat sequences as the team travels into the sprawling camp in the dead of night to stage dramatic rescues, to the ticking clock as they work tirelessly to track down victims or interrogate suspects or the tension as they train volunteer spies to go back into the camp, to the emotional intimacy as rescued women struggle to reclaim their identities or accept their new freedom at the Yadizi refugee at Mahmud’s own home. All captured observationally within the moment, the film offers a chilling and striking view into the on-the-ground horrors of the Syrian conflict. Though not an easy watch, the film is urgent, immediate and essential.