Think back to the summer of 2011 and to a little blog called A Gay Girl in Damascus. Do you recall the reported kidnapping of lesbian blogger Amina Arraf? Well, we certainly made mention of it at the time. We also updated you just days later about even stranger events surrounding the story.
Now there’s another update: Amina’s girlfriend Sandra Bagaria joined forces with director Sophie Deraspe to make The Amina Profile, a thrilling documentary that tells Bagaria’s side of things and brings together all the information and many key players associated with the story.
We spoke with Sophie and Sandra about the process of making this film and the motivations behind it.
Warning: spoilers ahead
AfterEllen.com: Sophie, what was it about this story that compelled you to make a movie about it?
Sophie Deraspe: In a way, I felt it was the perfect story. I had this access via my friend Sandra. It’s a very personal story, but it opens to very broad subjects that concern all of us in this contemporary world. I felt from a very personal perspective I could open to online identity and media coverage, politics, and what it is to connect nowadays. So I felt it was a very important story to tell. Especially a story of our time.
AE: So you and Sandra were friends beforehand?
SD: Yes, I knew her before she met Amina online. We got closer by doing this film together, but I was aware of all that was happening while it was happening.
AE: Sandra, can you explain how, even though you already knew each other, how you and Sophie came to work together on this?
Sandra Bagaria: During the affair I had with Amina, most of my friends were aware of it because it was so incredible that I had to share what was going on. And even more because we are a group of friends that are very interested in what’s happening outside–internationally and current affairs. All that to say that when the story broke and I was under the media spotlight, I had to just back off for a little and just digest the story. It really was a little heavy emotionally to just deal. It took me a couple of months and I realized it was actually too much for me to just handle by myself. And I always thought that story was really not about a simple love story.
It was always covered in such longer and brighter layers. This is why it all happened in a way. So a couple of months after, I came to see Sophie. I told her, “Look, I think something could be done out of this, and I’m going to just share with you all the writings.” I never went back to the writings, and I didn’t want to go back to the writings. For me, sharing it with someone felt already like such a relief.
Sophie, for me, was the best choice since the beginning. I knew her work. I knew she was my friend. I knew how sensitive she would be also to the story. I was wondering at the beginning if I could share it with a man. I don’t know, I felt that it was more a woman’s story. I felt that I would be more understood by a woman. And I think by seeing the result, the documentary makes even more sense now.
AE: Sophie, how was it for you as a filmmaker to work so closely with a key figure in the very real story you were trying to tell?
SD: When she gave me her archives, I received it as a huge gift of trust. And I knew the story was something worth telling the world and worth doing a film. But I told her, “It’s important that you give me full freedom.” While asking her this carte blanche, this freedom, I knew and I felt that she knew that I wouldn’t be disrespectful in any way.
SB: I think it was part of the deal in a way. It was implicit that if I was giving away this, I had to accept also the consequences of that agreement.
AE: Sandra, the events surrounding Amina in many ways left you feeling humiliated. So why bring this to the public consciousness again by participating in this movie?
SB: For me there were two choices I had in front of me. One was dealing with my own weaknesses. Just like acknowledging them and solving them. Or at least working on them. The second one would have been just hiding and not talking about it to anyone. I’m not the type of victim person. I only saw positive aspects to it.
AE: But the process must have opened up old wounds. Was it therapeutic for you?
SB: Yes! It was! And what was great is that, as Sophie said, she had carte blanche. At some point I was just like, “Okay, I don’t need to think about it anymore.” She was going on her own way – professionally, artistically – by exploring and researching about the story, and I was doing my own thing, which is understanding myself better.
SD: And what’s great about doing movies sometimes is that you make things happen. I don’t think Sandra would have met with all those people with whom she had many things to share. And even if meeting with the perpetrator won’t like give her many answers that she needed or whatever, at least she did it on her own terms.
AE: Sophie, if you didn’t know the Amina story already, the movie gives nothing away at the beginning. You could have chosen to go the route of disclosing who Amina was right away, as it was a well-reported story. Why didn’t you?
SD: First, I think in the LGBT community that is well connected the story was known. But for a lot of the audience it was, “Well, I’ve heard of this. She wasn’t real…” People don’t know. When we were living this through our friend, it was like being in a thriller or sometimes even in a spy movie. I thought it was interesting also to let the audience live that in this way.
This trailer is NSFW right in the last seven seconds.
The Amina Profile’s theatrical release is planned for this summer in the US and Canada. You can also check the official website to find out if it’s screening at near you.