A Piece of Me is Sara Elgamal’s new stunning three-part documentary highlighting three survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM). Produced in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund, the film was shot in deserts of Ethiopia's Afar region and styled by London-based stylist and designer Nadine Mosallam. Get more information and watch the three-part film here.
Collective Culture - What inspired you to make this project?
Sara - I initially went into this industry to tell meaningful stories – and that is exactly what I told the Head of Social at UNFPA when we met. After being approached to pitch for a campaign on female genital mutilation (FGM) I did my research. After learning how prevalent this was in my native country, Egypt and how many women in my own family were Survivors of FGM- I decided to represent the women in the way that I understood them to be despite their past traumas- dignified, powerful, beautiful, complex- I decided to create a campaign that celebrated women despite their past traumas, rather than another victim story.
CC - As a filmmaker, what was your most important takeaway from this project?
S - Being invited into Zahra, Abida and Khadija’s pastorial communities was a completely humbling experience. It altered my perception and they taught me so much about how we view ourselves within our communities.
CC - Often, when content is made about a subject as heavy as FGM, the people being highlighted are defined through the trauma they experienced. You were very intentional about representing these women as complex, dignified, and powerful people. Why do you think that is an important aspect of changing the narratives around FGM?
S - The overarching goal with my work as a filmmaker is to try to shift the narratives and perceptions of underrepresented regions and people - especially with BIPOC women. With this project, having our survivors represented/ representing themselves as complex, beautiful, dignified and powerful is exactly how I view them and women in my family (who were subjected to FGM). I refuse to view these women as victims. FGM is irreversible, and these women are so much more than their experience of trauma.
Ultimately using fashion and cinematic visuals as a tool, I wanted these women to be seen and heard. I think that’s an important aspect of changing the narrative around FGM because we need to celebrate the women for everything she is.
CC - What is the most common misconception people have about FGM? And, how can we work to change this misconception?
S - I think one of the most common misconceptions that people have about FGM is that this is just an issue that happens ‘over there' in villages in Africa. In fact, FGM occurs on every continent, even right here in Toronto.
Every summer 'cutting season' takes place where millions of girls are sent back home from places like Toronto, NYC, London, etc to be cut during school holidays. Another misconception is that this is something based on religion or exclusive to Islam. This is not the case, FGM has been a practice for thousands of years and is rooted in male patriarchy.
CC - Other than supporting your project and donating to this cause, what else can people do to support the movement to end FGM?
S - Talk about it. In creating this project I’ve come to realize that many people are still not aware that this is even happening. Speak to members of your family, your community and community leaders, as well as men in your circles. I noticed first hand in the Afar region how powerful community dialogue can go to end this practice. This is something that is so much closer to us than we all realize and so it is our responsibility to make sure the issue is out in the open so it can no longer take place in secrecy.
CC - Are you working on anything else coming out soon?
S - I am currently looking to bring a new audio-visual exhibit to NYC next, and plan to keep pushing this project and awareness as far as it can go and hopefully into new spaces worldwide.
As well, you can expect my second annual POC film screening (in collaboration with POC London) sometime early fall- a space to share works by up and coming POC Canadian filmmakers.