Awareness and Remembrance, In the News, Personal Stories

The Three Most Moving Moments in “Fatal Silence”

September 05, 2019

Maha El Birani, her sisters, and her mother Sonia had long endured family violence at the hands of Maha’s father, despite eventually seeking outside help and therapy. It all came to an abrupt stop once Maha’s father brutally murdered Sonia in their family home in London, Ontario, Canada. The short documentary, Fatal Silence, directed and produced by Alan Powell, recounts Maha’s poignant story of her family’s suffering and what lessons she hopes others will learn from her family’s plight so no one else has to endure what her family went through.

For a sneak peek into the doc, here are the three (3) most touching moments from the film.

maha standing at her mother's grave 

1. Visiting Sonia’s grave In the serene backdrop of the cemetery standing by Sonia’s austere gravestone, Maha reveals that “it makes me sad, she’s here all by herself. I don’t think anyone comes, and that’s how it was when we were here.” It illustrates how isolating being a victim of domestic violence can be, as their extended family and religious community still refuse to acknowledge domestic violence as a community issue, choosing instead to shun Maha’s family for bringing a private matter into the public spheres. It shows that even something as jarring as the death of a loved one won’t compel people to have a change of heart or to build empathy, and that is why domestic violence perpetuates.


maha's old home


2. Driving past Maha’s former family home When Alan drives Maha to her old family home, Maha points to the white door and states that Sonia had bled to death from stabbing wounds on the other side of it, struggling to escape Maha’s abusive father. This shocking image makes us reconsider the phrase “behind closed doors”, often referring to private matters that others shouldn’t get involved in, because anyone would have wanted to save Sonia if they knew what was happening behind the closed front door. As viewers, we are moved to think about why intimate partner violence deserves more attention and public discourse.


maha with a friend


3. Sitting with Youmna Maha asks Youmna, an old co-worker and her friend, about why society doesn’t offer to help the El Birani’s even though the family didn’t explicitly implore it. Youmna, someone who had known about Maha’s family abuse, admits that she didn’t realize how serious the situation was and had never encountered other people openly addressing it. It is powerful to see Youmna’s palpable regret as she reflects on her role as a bystander; as viewers, we wonder whether we will have a moment like Youmna’s someday or will we take the brave (and admittedly scary!) step of doing something to stop abuse.

Watch the documentary here: