MTV Documentary Films Buys Sundance Winner ‘Sabaya’

MTV Documentary Films has acquired North American rights to “Sabaya,” the story of volunteers of the Yazidi Home Center, who risk their lives in order to save women and girls held by ISIS as sex slaves.

The film received a directing award for world cinema documentary when it premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “Sabaya” is directed and produced by Stockholm-based filmmaker Hogir Hirori and also produced by Antonio Russo Merenda. In a rave review in Variety, Jessica Kiang wrote that the film was “gripping, harrowing, superb.”

MTV Documentary Films will qualify “Sabaya” for awards consideration and is targeting an early fall release. The company’s recent film, “76 Days,” a look at the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, was just shortlisted for a best documentary Oscar. MTV Documentary Films’s “Hunger Ward” was also shortlisted for best documentary short subject.

Here’s the logline: “Armed with just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad and other volunteers from the Yazidi Home Center are on a mission to save Yazidi women and girls held captive by ISIS as Sabaya (sex slaves) in the most dangerous refugee camp in the Middle East, Al-Hol in Syria. Often accompanied by women infiltrators and working mostly at night, Mahmud and Ziyad must act extremely quickly to avoid potential violence. In this visceral, often edge-of-your-seat film, we experience both the tense situation in the camp and the comfort of daily life at home, where Mahmud’s wife, Siham, and his mother, Zahra, lovingly help the traumatized girls shed off the black garments of an ideology that tolerates nothing but itself.”

The film was written, shot and edited by Hirori with music by Mohammed Zaki. It is a production of Lolav Media and Ginestra Film in co-production with SVT with support from The Swedish Film Institute, Nordisk Film & TV Fond, Film Stockholm/Fimbasen, in association with YLE and VGTV.

The sale was negotiated by Ana Vicente of Dogwoof on behalf of the filmmakers and Lance McPherson and Bahareh Kamali on behalf of MTV Documentary Films.

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