Alexandria Bombach

USA , 2018 / 94 min / English, Kurdish and Arabic OV with English subt. / Documentary

Ciné-ONU, in collaboration with Time for Equality

With: Deborah Seward, Director of the United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) in Brussels (Introduction and Moderation), Charles Goerens, Member of the European Parliament and Member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights, and Sandrine Gashonga, Amnesty International Luxembourg, Board Member, Veronique de Ryckere, senior protection officer for Belgium and Luxembourg, UNHCR.

Twenty-three-year-old Nadia Murad’s village, Kocho, located in northern Iraq and composed primarily of a religious minority known as Yazidis, was raided by ISIS in 2014. Over 700 villagers were slaughtered with just 15 survivors remaining. Nadia escaped the hands of ISIS to become a beacon of hope for her people, even when at times she longs to lay aside this monumental burden and simply have an ordinary life. Instead it has become is a dizzying array of exhausting undertakings – from giving testimony before the UN to visiting refugee camps to soul-bearing media interviews and one-on-one meetings with top government officials. This documentary follows Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nadia and her attempts to raise awareness of the massacre while also showcasing the emotional burden of this particular kind of fame.

“The platform of the victim, the survivor, is nothing to be taken lightly. Nadia herself knows that her words have moved people to take action. It is my hope that this intimate access into Nadia’s life off the podium will reveal the true struggles that a voiceless community faces in getting the world to act.” Alexandria Bombach, director of On Her Shoulders

Ciné-ONU / United Nations Cinema is one of UNRIC Brussels’ flagship outreach activities on  UN and global issues.

Ciné-ONU consists of film screenings and debates by film makers and/or experts in the field on UN issues and is organised on a bi-monthly basis in cooperation with other UN agencies, partners such as the European Commission, embassies, NGOs and government offices.

Ciné-ONU events are free of charge and are now widely anticipated in Brussels, Lisbon, Cologne, Luxembourg, Madrid, London, Rome, Helsinki, Stockholm, Geneva and Vienna and between 2007 and 2018, reached over 100,000 people from NGOs, academia, European institutions, the media, business, government and the general public in more than 200 events throughout Europe.

For more information on Ciné-ONU and to see previous films we have screened, please go to: and

Time For Equality 

Time for Equality is a non-profit association based in Luxembourg since 2014.  Our mission is to contribute to a fair and inclusive society built on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, equity and justice. Time For Equality undertakes several initiatives to raise awareness and lobby on current social issues of urgency both within and across borders. We believe in the power of the arts and human stories to inspire civil society to take responsibility.  True to our motto “Learn, Share, Act”, our initiatives not only sensitise the public but also motivate them to answer the question “What can I do?” We promote   projects, campaigns, and actions through which each one of us can be part of the solution. For more information visit our website which has been recognized in the Top 50 Gender Equality Blogs and Websites.


Sun 10/03 16:30 Cinémathèque OV with EN subt. Public

“Cannily, On Her Shoulders is structured almost like a typical rock documentary, in which a popular band ventures from event to event, constantly under the watchful glare of the media and their besotted fans. That ironic framework masterfully accentuates Bombach’s dispiriting observations about how feverish and distorting our society’s obsession with celebrity has become — even when that “celebrity” is famous because of the atrocities she has endured. […] On Her Shoulders shows how draining that task is for Murad and how her “stardom” can be co-opted by groups who are more interested in being seen as aligned with what she represents rather than in actually helping her people. And yet Bombach’s film isn’t cynical about people’s motivations. Instead, On Her Shoulders is critical of the ways that the desire to do good gets trampled by familiar, intractable obstacles — government bureaucracy, sensation-driven news outlets, ineffectual politicians — even if individuals within those milieus care deeply about Murad’s cause. Bombach brings a hopeful but clear-eyed perspective to the material, sticking close to this young woman as she fights to maintain some sense of normalcy amidst her odd, unexpected celebrity.” Tim Grierson, ScreenDaily, 19/10/2018

“Less a portrait of accidental activist Nadia Murad than a sensitive witnessing of the way she has endured life in the public eye, Alexandria Bombach's On Her Shoulders is passionately attentive to the plight of the Yazidis while making broader observations about the call to public service.” John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter, 20/01/2018

“It’s one thing to tell a traumatic story, and another to capture how that trauma impacts a life. What makes Alexandria Bombach’s On Her Shoulders so powerful — besides the profound dignity of its subject, Yazidi massacre survivor Nadia Murad — is the way she reveals Murad’s distress at having to take on the role of activist. For every time people tell her how strong she is, we see her discomfort with the straightjacketing mantle of campaigner that she knows she must wear to draw attention to her community’s genocide. By exposing the ways public institutions and the media demand an explicit performance of suffering by human-rights spokespeople, Bombach (who won the U.S. Doc directing prize at Sundance) shows that Murad’s nightmare will never end. It’s this understanding, so rarely addressed or even noticed in most portraits of refugees, that makes Bombach’s film essential viewing.” Jay Weissberg, Variety, 28/01/2018

“Bombach smartly realizes that it isn’t only Murad’s bravery that makes her extraordinary, but her willingness to repeatedly take on the Sisyphusian task of dredging up the horrors of her past only to see most people she talks to almost entirely miss the point of her doing so. Her tenacity in putting herself through the ringer for the benefit of her fellow Yazidis is evident from the onset, though as Murad continues to grapple with the glacial pace with which the international community rallies for true change, the film captures how exhausting and infuriating it can be to tilt the odds toward justice. […] At its most cutting and intimate, On Her Shoulders captures Murad’s public and private sides colliding in numerous moments where she politely smiles to various world leaders and journalists, only temporarily concealing the pain, sadness, and frustration before those emotions inevitably work their way to the surface. Bombach may linger throughout on Murad’s bravery, but the filmmaker is interested more on homing in on the ways her subject’s fragility and self-doubt arise as collateral damage from her fame and steadfast activism.” Derek Smith, Slant Magazine, 14/10/2018

“Bombach does a tremendous job of showing Nadia as someone who has endured indescribable horrors, yet she never depicts Nadia as a martyr, choosing instead to show her as an honest, strong-willed individual. On Her Shoulders is worth watching not just for its humane depiction of its heroine, but also for its relevancy within the world today.” Seattle International Film Festival

“There is a gorgeous ambition to Bombach's project, of getting out Nadia’s message by sharing her headspace, while humanizing her in a way that clips on tearful radio interviews do not. This is done beautifully in a few ways, like when observing her in different interview moments where she is quiet, and her partner/translator Murad relays horrifying questions that interviewees feel they must ask to get some sort of concrete picture. […] Emotional delicacy is a major component to this documentary, which makes all of its bolder expressions especially magnified.” Nick Allen,, 23/01/2018

“Alexandria Bombach’s direction and editing are exceptional; she captures images that are both subtle and formidable. Her film is, first and foremost, a profile of Murad and her mission. Yet it’s also a comment on the media and on government aid. Everyone here appears eager to help Murad. But getting the word out takes immense effort, and the wheels of justice seem to turn so slowly.” Ken Jaworowski, The New York Times, 18/10/2018

  • SXSW LUNA Chicken & Egg Award in Documentary, SXSW Film Festival, 2018 (USA)
  • Documentary Directing Award, Sundance Film Festival, 2018 (USA)
  • Harrell Award for Best Documentary Feature, Camden International Film Festival (USA)
  • Human Rights Award, Dokufest International Documentary and Short Film Festival, 2018 (Kosovo)
  • Political Film Award, Hamburg Film Festival, 2018 (Germany)
  • Docs for Schools Award, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, 2018 (Canada)
  • Grand Prize for a Documentary Feature, Heartland International Film Festival, 2018 (USA)
Cast & Credits
Nadia Murad Basee Taha, Amal Clooney, Murad Ismael, Simone Monasebian, Michelle Rempel, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Ahmed Khudida Burjus, Luis Moreno Ocampo
Alexandria Bombach
Lawrence Everson
Patrick Jonsson
RYOT Films

Alexandria Bombach is an award-winning cinematographer, editor, and director from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her first feature-length documentary, Frame by Frame (2015) followed the lives of four Afghan photojournalists who were facing the realities of building Afghanistan's first free press. The film had its world premiere at SXSW 2015, went on to win more than twenty-five film festival awards, and screened for the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani. Alexandria continued her work in Afghanistan in 2016, directing the Pulitzer Center-supported New York Times Op-Doc, Afghanistan by Choice (2016), an intertwining portrait of five Afghans who had to weigh the costs of leaving or staying as the country's security deteriorated. In addition to her feature documentary work, Alexandria’s production company Red Reel has been producing award-winning, character-driven stories since 2009. Her Emmy award-winning 2012 short film series Moveshake captured the internal conflicts of people dedicating their lives to a cause.

  • 2018 – On Her Shoulders (documentary)
  • 2016 – Afghanistan by Choice (court-métrage documentary)
  • 2015 – Frame by Frame (documentary)
  • 2013 – Common Ground (documentary short)
  • 2013 – Natural Heroes (2 episodes of the documentary TV series)
  • 2013 – Alison Gannett: A MoveShake Story (documentary short)
  • 2013 – Gregg Treinish: A MoveShake Story (documentary short)
  • 2012 – Julio Solis: A MoveShake Story (documentary short)
  • 2012 – Shannon Galpin: A MoveShake Story (documentary short)