The last major stronghold of the Islamic State — also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh — fell in March 2019, when the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces liberated the town of Baghouz, on the border between Syria and Iraq. At the peak of its power, ISIS controlled a swath of land the size of Britain between those two Middle Eastern countries, with some 8 million people under the rule of its so-called caliphate. Among the militant group’s highest-profile victims were the Yazidi, a religious minority in northern Iraq that was targeted by ISIS for genocide and the mass kidnapping, rape and forced marriage of its young girls.
Violence needs only an instant to transpire; recovery and restoration can take a lifetime or more. That’s the heart-wrenching reality that Iraqi-born, Sweden-based director Hogir Hirori (The Deminer, The Girl Who Saved My Life) captures in Sabaya, which