Desert Flower

Out Now On-Demand

True-story drama about Somalian-born Waris Dirie (played by Liya Kebede, also a model), who became one of the world's most sought-after fashion models. Born into a family of goat-hearding nomads, Waris' path would take her from the northeast African deserts to the world's most prestigious fashion runways. Stars a raft of Britain's best, including Timothy Spall, Sally Hawkins and Craig Parkinson.

At the height of her career, Waris revealed she was a childhood victim of genital mutilation. Her story unleashed a wave of controversey and she dedicated her life to fighting the barbaric tradition. See the Waris Dirie Foundation website for more info.


Directed by

Written by

Biography, Drama


Rating: R16 contains violence, sexual themes & content that may disturb

English, Somali and French with English subtitles

UK, Germany, Austria

Official Site


Desert Flower tenderly, if conventionally, portrays Waris Dirie’s (Liya Kebede) rise from desert nomad to supermodel and human rights campaigner. Director Sherry Homan stresses the enormous gap between Dirie’s life in Somalia (shown in flashbacks) and her life as down-and-out cleaner in London. A humorous moment occurs when Dirie, who walked alone and barefoot across the desert to Mogadishu, struggles to negotiate a few steps in stiletto heels.

Real-life supermodel Kebede handles her part well. Dirie’s vulnerability and loneliness are particularly poignant when she visits a London hospital in need of surgery as a result of her botched genital circumcision. The other characters (including English notables Sally Hawkins and Timothy Spall) are underdeveloped and feel two-dimensional in comparison.

There are some exquisite images of Somalia, showing the younger version of Dirie (Soraya Omar-Scego) travelling across the windswept, dusty landscape with her family. The women’s traditional clothing creates vivid splashes of colour in the barren setting.

Desert Flower is undoubtedly an extraordinary story but the film does not quite capture its magic. The narrative loses its focus in the second half of the film, Dirie’s success as a supermodel is evoked in clichéd fashion in a catwalk montage sequence, and the film veers towards the sentimental (enhanced by the inane soundtrack). The scene in which the three-year-old Dirie undergoes circumcision is powerfully conveyed, however, and is extremely difficult to watch.




what a life !

The true life-story of Waris Dirie ... and what a life story.

As a film a lot things were not really to my liking but it is secondary to the story being told, which is really the point of this film.

An amazing true story ... take your teenage daughter to it and she might just stop complaining for a day or two.

deeply moving and powerful

I loved this movie. Great movie for all women to see - to celebrate and embrace womanhood and our sisterhood. Beautifully filmed and has a very moving soundtrack. I cried and cried.,,,good tears though. If you enjoy real life stories about the human spirit triumphing over major adversity through sheer strength of spirit, then this is the movie for you. Highly recommended!


How do you begin to think on this, commenting is well..words fail me. A powerful struggle by a what the western culture would term the most underpriviledge human beings on the planet. God, what we think we know about life and living. Out of extreme circumstances comes a true soul with a great might of willpower. How does a 13yrs old understand strength of that magnitude. A story that needed telling, the world is ready to listen now thank goodness. Adaptation subtle really,toned down and easy to digest, with the exception of the gruesomely powerful circumcision. Everyone in the theatre closed eyes during that scene. Not for the squeamish. Sally Hawkins love her acting. My Mum talked about this book incessantly when it came out. At 84yrs now i wonder how she will respond to the movie. We'll see.