BY Katie Chambers
Congratulations to NYWIFT Board Member Joyce Pierpoline, Executive Producer of Mediha, which just took home the U.S. Competition Grand Jury Prize at DOC NYC! In this immensely collaborative film, a Yazidi teen once held captive by ISIS takes us into her world of grief, pain, and hope.
The DOC NYC juror’s statement reads: “Mediha is a person and a film that you will think about long after it ends. Hasan Oswald’s portrait of Mediha, one of many women and children survivors of the ISIS-orchestrated genocide against the Yazidis, is a truly collaborative project in which Mediha tells her own harrowing story, and finds her own activist voice in the process. The film shines a light on the trauma of war and the difficult struggle to overcome it, while exploring the psychological complications of captivity of these women and children. This extremely careful and nuanced portrait of the experience of different generations of women resonated deeply with us. We are proud to give the U.S. Competition Grand Jury Prize to Mediha, and we sincerely congratulate the talent and courage of the team in bringing this story to the world.”
We spoke to Pierpoline (prior to the exciting win) about her involvement in this important film.
Congratulations on your DOC NYC screening! What does inclusion in the festival mean to you?
It is an honor to have our world premiere in competition at DOC NYC. We are thrilled to be presenting it in our hometown. Jaie [Laplante, DOC NYC Artistic Director] and his team have championed the film since the beginning.
Their support, along with Human Rights Watch, provides a spotlight on such an extraordinary young woman’s courage dealing with trauma. Mediha has just arrived in New York for the first time making this a very special event indeed.
How did you get involved in Mediha? What drew you to this project?
I met the director [Hasan Oswald] in Cannes a couple of years ago through a mutual friend. Hasan told me about the project and I was very intrigued. Once I saw some of the footage, I was completely drawn into this incredibly vital and powerful story of Mediha.
This story is told in a very non-traditional way – rather than a succession of sit-down interviews with witnesses and experts, much of the footage comes from the subject herself. Please tell us more about that.
The film is a true collaboration between the director, Hasan, and Mediha. He gave Mediha her own camera so she can tell her own story, giving her agency. She is able to express herself more freely about her own experience and it allows us to see her world through her eyes.
What was the most surprising moment for you during this process?
Watching the story change and evolve during the edit is the most exciting process to be a part of, hands down!
What was your favorite moment? And your biggest challenge?
Mediha is such a brave person. One of the most exciting moments is when Mediha identifies her captor. Now, can and will that person ever be brought to justice?
I saw your great news that Academy Award-winner Emma Thompson has signed on as an Executive Producer as well – congratulations! How did that collaboration come about?
Emma Thompson saw a video Hasan did about refugees many years ago and emailed words of support. Over the next few years, they became friends and she has been a mentor to him ever since.
The film is so (unfortunately) timely when there is so much cultural and ethnically driven violence in the world right now. How do you feel the film speaks to this moment in time?
The film is extremely relevant today. Though our film addresses the plight of the Yazidis, it also speaks to human rights atrocities that are happening every day around the globe but do not always get the media attention they deserve.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
I want people to have a feeling of hope. Mediha is an incredible young woman and a testament to the resilience, strength and courage of women who learn to survive in the face of adversity.
What’s next for you?
This is the first documentary I have worked on, and it has been a wonderful experience so I hope to continue.
Joyce Pierpoline is an award-winning producer and founder of Pierpoline Films based in New York and Paris, France. Her most recent film, The Listener, starring Tessa Thompson and directed by Steve Buscemi, premiered at the Venice Film Festival this year; other films include The Transfiguration (Cannes Film Festival); Sundance award-winning cult favorite Teeth, considered one of the top 10 political horror films of all time; Happy Tears, Angelica, and the multi-award-winning first film by Neil Labute, In the Company of Men. She is board secretary of NYWIFT and serves on the board of BAFTA-North American where she is Chair of the Film Committee. She is also a member of the European Producers Club, the European Film Academy, and the Producers Guild of America where she is co-founder of the Women’s Impact Network, promoting gender equality in the industry.
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