A young girl’s brave journey to find the new home which—she is sure—is waiting for her somewhere, provides the road map for this enchanting philosophical story, brimming with music, magic and myth.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
“Bold of spirit and wild of hair, six-year-old Dounia lives joyfully with her family in Aleppo, where she spends her time traversing the bustling souks, or marketplaces, teeming with delicious ingredients just right for her grandmother’s amazing dishes. Life is filled with kind neighbours, shared stories, and music until a gradually intensifying conflict brings a growing troop of soldiers to town. When the family is forced to pack up and join the global ranks searching for a safer place to call home, Dounia’s grandmother stuffs rosewater sweets and other fresh-baked, homestyle delights into her bulging suitcase. But all Dounia takes with her is a handful of nigella seeds, known in Syrian lore to have magical properties. Her handful of hope just might bear rewards in the form of the legendary princess of Aleppo and her guidance as the group journeys across Syria, the dangerous sea, and the daunting borders of Europe.” — New York International Children’s Film Festival.
At its heart, Dounia is a geopolitical story told through the eyes of a child, in which mythology and reality meet. It’s also a touching love letter to the grandparents who help raise us. It’s her grandmothers cooking, the cherished recipes that connect Dounia and her family so deeply to their heritage and beloved city; and her grandfather’s love of music, that offer moments of celebratory lightness, even in the most challenging of times, which add much enchantment to the story.
Seamlessly blending the magic of childhood with the difficult reality of life in a war-torn country, this endearing story poetically and delicately addresses exile, migration and the plight of refugees, offering a timely and pertinent all-ages entry point to discussion around the importance of respect and understanding for all global citizens. — Nic Marshall