EXCLUSIVE: Principal photography has begun on Pembridge Pictures and Umedia’s A Girl From Mogadishu starring How To Get Away With Murder‘s Aja Naomi King. The female empowerment film is a true story based on the testimony of Ifrah Ahmed, who — having escaped war-torn Somalia — emerged as one of the world’s foremost international activists against gender based violence. Mary McGuckian (The Price Of Desire) is directing and wrote the script. Filming is underway in Belgium before moving to Ireland and Morocco. Check out a first-look photo of King as Ahmed above.

Martha Canga Antonio (Black) and Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) also star with Somali icon, Maryam Mursals.

Ahmed was born into a refugee camp in Somalia in 2006 and emigrated to Ireland as a teenager. Recounting her traumatic childhood experiences of female genital mutilation when applying for refugee status, she is re-traumatized and vows to devote her life to the eradication of the practice — taking her campaign all the way to the President of Ireland and finally to the European Parliament and United Nations.

McGuckian calls Ahmed “just an immensely inspiring person and her story speaks to all of refugee status, sexual violence in conflict, gender based violence, the asylum system as well as FGM. Fundamentally, A Girl From Mogadishu celebrates the power of testimony. How, when women find the courage to stand-up, speak out and tell their truth, the impact can be more than inspiring and empowering, and act as a meaningful catalyst for change.”

A Girl From Mogadishu is a Pembridge (Ireland) and Umedia (Belgium) production, with production services provided by Dune Film Productions in Morocco. Post-production will take place at Windmill Studios, Dublin and Umedia VFX, Brussels.

Produced by McGuckian and Umedia CEO Adrian Politowski, Headgear & Metrol Technology present in association with Premier Picture and The Exchange, a co-production with U Media and Screen Brussels, produced in association with Bord Scannán na hÉireann (The Irish Film Board).

Executive producers are Tom Harberd, Phil Hunt and Compton Ross for Headgear; Anastasia Garret, Jason Garret and David Rogers for Premier Picture; Peter Bevan, Nadia Khamlichi, Tatjana Kozar and Gilles Waterkeyn for Umedia; Lesley McKimm for the Irish Film Board; Brian O’Shea for The Exchange; and Ifrah Foundation board members, Emma Beanland and Caroline Keeling.