Poland, Germany


Sinjar, Northern Iraq, 2014: Hanifa, a young Yezidi woman, miraculously survives the ISIS attack on the Yezidi religious and ethnic minority in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq. Hanifa escapes abduction by ISIS but her five younger sisters are all trucked off and enslaved.

Based on exclusive access to one of the most dangerous and underreported places on earth, Oscar- and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Hanna Polak tracks Hanifa’s mission to find her sisters and bring them home – as she had promised her dying father she would.

Director's Statement

Over the course of my career as a filmmaker I’ve encountered innumerable people trying to survive in/escape from the most direct circumstances imaginable. Feeling compelled to help them, I’ve worked hard to bring their stories to light, directly from the very hearts of darkness in which they reside. Sometimes, especially in the conflict zones, I’ve risked my own life in the process. I take this risk to serve others, to alleviate their misery, and to save their lives because I care about them as people, and I want them to know they are not alone and are appreciated.

I have been blessed by meeting people like Hanifa and Saeed, Yezidis whose own unique religion and philosophy of life are based on the principle of doing no harm. However, paradoxically, they themselves have become targets for extermination. As a result of the IS's 2014 military campaign against the Yezidis, thousands of men were killed, and thousands of women were held in sexual slavery. Captured by ISIS militants, children were brainwashed and trained in military camps to become IS fighters and suicide bombers. Years later many of these women and children remain captives, and a countless number of men are missing.

Today, most of the Yezidis, all of whom are severely traumatised, live in humiliating poverty, fearing yet another genocide. They struggle every day to survive, scraping together meagre means to do so. All the while, the world remains deaf and blind to their ongoing agony.

ANGELS OF SINJAR, shot in northern Iraq, is my humble attempt to chronicle the Yezidi genocide. It is testament to the ongoing courage and resilience of Hanifa and Saeed, and to the cultural and spiritual richness of the Yezidi people who are desperately trying to stitch back together the shredded fabric of their community and return to a lawful life of peace. Their story is a universal one, which in our troubled and turbulent times, could become our own at any given moment in time.

Director's Biography

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, PGA producer Hanna Polak graduated from the Cinematography Institute of the Russian Federation (VGIK). In 2004, Hanna completed her documentary film THE CHILDREN OF LENINGRADSKY which was nominated for an Oscar, received an IDA Award and was nominated for an Emmy Award in two categories, amongst many other awards it received.

As a producer, director, and/or cinematographer, Hanna has worked on various films, including Al – TRIBUTE TO ALBERT MAYSLES, BATTLE OF WARSAW 1920 IN 3D, STONE SILENCE, SHOT IN AFGHANISTAN, OFFICER'S WIFE, ORANGE SUN, FACES OF HOMELESSNESS and others. STONE SILENCE won her “Artistic Mastery of Photographing” award at the Kiev Film Festival, for her cinematography.

In 2012, she produced and directed LOVE AND RUBBISH for the 'Why Poverty?' series, which won A Corto di Donne Women’s Short Film Festival.

In 2015, Hanna completed her feature documentary film SOMETHING BETTER TO COME, which received the Producers Guild of America nomination and IDFA Special Jury Award. The film received over 30 awards and nominations worldwide, including main prizes at Munich Film Festival, Documentary Edge Festival, Docs Against Gravity, ArtDoc Fest, Trieste and EuroDok, as well as the Best Director award at Imagineindia and Best Cinematography award from Gdańsk DocFilm Festival.

Hanna’s works have been screened in festivals around the world, including Sundance, IDFA, True/False, FIPA, and they have appeared on major television networks, including HBO America, HBO Europe, Canal+, NHK, SVT, Yle, DR, and many others.

Hanna has lectured on film producing and documentary filmmaking at universities and workshops worldwide. She was an expert for the Mazovia Warsaw Film Commission and the Polish Ministry of Culture, evaluating documentary projects.

Hanna is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

For her charitable efforts, Hana Polak was awarded with the Golden Heart Award in Russia, the “Award for serving the uppermost ideals of mankind” and the Crystal Mirror Award by Mirror magazine in Poland, an award that recognises “people of dialogue, those who unite, not divide.”

Hanna has been advocating for the case of homeless children all over the world and she has been collaborating with different aid agencies, to help unprivileged children.

2022 - ANGELS OF SINJAR, Documentary
2020 - UNDERAGE ENGINEERS, Documentary
2014 - SOMETHING BETTER TO COME, Documentary
2012 - LOVE AND RUBBISH, Short
2010 - BATTLE OF WARSAW 1920 IN 3D, Documentary

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Hanna Polak

Written by: Hanna Polak

Produced by: Hanna Polak, Simone Baumann

Cinematography: Hanna Polak, Mariusz Margas, Mykhailo Puziurin

Editing: Marcin Kot Bastkowski

Original Score: Lukasz Pieprzyk

Sound: Bartez Putkiewicz

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2022