Banaz: A Love Story

Banaz: A Love Story


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In January 2006, Banaz Mahmod went missing. She was just 19 years old, but her family didn't seem to care. If her boyfriend hadn't called the police, no one would ever have known. The subsequent investigation revealed that there had been at least one previous attempt on her life; that she had been stalked for months; that the police had done nothing in response to her requests for help; and that she had been a victim of honour based violence. This documentary attempts to piece together what happened - to solve the mystery, but also to speak up for Banaz as a person, since pretty much nobody did so when she was alive.

Wearing its heart on its sleeve, the film makes no pretence at a neutral voice. As a result, it is inevitably unbalanced, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. An effort is made to speak to those accused of Banaz's murder, to get their side of the story. Banaz's sister speaks with some sympathy of the difficulties faced by men losing privilege when moving into a new cultural environment, though she is herself estranged from her family and furious about the murder. Because he is in hiding, there is no interview with Banaz's boyfriend, but extensive co-operation from the police officers who investigated the murder means there's no shortage of material to substantiate the story. Most importantly, there is interview footage which enables Banaz to speak for herself.

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The inevitable risk of prurience in telling the story of a murder is balanced here by a broadening of the narrative to consider its implications for others. There are around a dozen confirmed honour killings in the UK each year, though experts suspect the real figure is higher, and of course there are many more people who are assaulted or simply coerced into accepting a life they don't want for fear of violence. In interview, Banaz talks about the brutal rapes and beatings she suffered at the hands of a man she was married to at 17. The detective who led the case, Caroline Goode, speaks of how she saw her as a desperately vulnerable child; but what comes across here is her bravery. The officers who dealt with her then didn't spot it, didn't take her concerns seriously. This highlights the importance of raising awareness as the film is trying to do.

Despite the harrowing nature of her subject, director Deeyah set out to tell a rounded story with positive things to say about Banaz's life. Using text messages recovered from her phone, it successfully illustrates the joy she found in her new relationship, tempered though it was by fear. This gives it a three dimensional quality often missing from true crime documentaries. Deeyah's triumph is that, fascinating and horrifying though this story is on other levels, we never lose sight - as her family did - of the human being at its heart.

If you are concerned that you of someone close to you may be at risk of honour based violence, you can contact Karma Nirvana for confidential support and advice.

Reviewed on: 04 Feb 2013
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Banaz: A Love Story packshot
The story of Banaz Mahmod, murdered for leaving her abusive husband and falling in love with another man.

Director: Deeyah

Starring: Caroline Goode, Diana Nammi, Nazir Afzal

Year: 2012

Runtime: 70 minutes

Country: UK, Norway

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