SXSW Film Review: On Her Shoulders

Nuanced doc about a survivor's stand against ISIS

Since ISIS took control of her village, murdered 18 of her family members, and turned her into a sex slave, 23-year-old Nadia Murad’s life has been spent telling this story of persecution over and over again.

However, what could have easily been a simple, cinematic translation of the oppression of the Yazidi people is transformed into something much more nuanced through director Alexandria Bombach (Frame by Frame).

Bombach’s ability to thoughtfully examine trauma and its narrative in the media and politics creates a new avenue for Nadia’s justice outside of the courtroom or parliament. The film, which picked up the SXSW LUNA® Chicken & Egg Award – Documentary at Tuesday night’s SXSW Film Festival Jury and Special Awards ceremony, traces Nadia’s journey traveling from country to country, pleading for acknowledgement of her people and what they’ve endured. Repeatedly she is asked to recount brutal details about her rape, her escape, and her ability to persevere as her community is slaughtered and abused elsewhere.

By traveling with Nadia on each of these trips – each more laden with hope and defeat than the last – Bombach is able to avoid asking the same questions and instead show the toll that it takes on a young woman to be responsible for the future of a million displaced people.

On Her Shoulders

Festival Favorites
Saturday, March 17, 2pm, Zach Theatre

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Austin Institution Saxon Pub Survives in SXSW Documentary
Austin Institution Saxon Pub Survives in SXSW Documentary
A glimmer of hope amid Austin development in Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub

Doug Freeman, March 8, 2019

Kathy Bates, Marc Maron, and More Confirmed for Texas Film Hall of Fame Ceremony
Kathy Bates, Marc Maron, and More Confirmed for Texas Film Hall of Fame Ceremony
We know the winners, now who'll be running the show?

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 14, 2019

More by Katarina Brown
SXSW Panel Recap: <i>The Second Golden Age of Audio: Podcasts</i>
Panel Recap: The Second Golden Age of Audio: Podcasts
After a wave of acquisitions, Spotify chiefs allay fears

March 14, 2019

SXSW Film Review: <i>The River and the Wall</i>
Film Review: The River and the Wall
Award-winning border documentary focuses on nature over politics

March 13, 2019


SXSW Film 2018, On Her Shoulders, Nadia Murad, Alexandria Bombach, Frame by Frame

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle