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Captive (2021 Documentary)

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Captive is a 2021 documentary film by Canadian journalist Mellissa Fung. Captive interweaves two parallel stories of abductions and abuses of women: the ongoing kidnapping of girls and women by Boko Haram in Nigeria[1], and Fung’s 2008 kidnapping by armed bandits while on assignment in Afghanistan[2].


Zara, Asma’u, and Gambo escaped Boko Haram’s brutal war in northeastern Nigeria after being held captive by the terror group.  Kidnapped as girls, they are now living with the aftermath of trauma. Captive follows them over four years as they struggle to reclaim their lives.  

The girls grapple with the physical, psychological, and social scars of abduction, rape and violence, only to find themselves marked by stigma, and unwelcome when they finally return to their own communities. Unlike members of the now famous Chibok schoolgirls, whose abduction focused the world’s attention on Nigeria in 2014 and became a cause celebre before and after their release, Zara, Asma’u and Gambo are left to survive and rehabilitate on their own.

Fung discovers these three girls still confronting trauma, at first with little hope.  They are only three of the thousands of other girls who have suffered the same fate, then silenced and abandoned by a society where psychological wounds are not spoken of, and where there is just too much conflict, poverty and pain for their trauma to stand out.

Filmed during several high-risk trips to northeastern Nigeria, Fung highlights the horrors the girls endured, and the suffering that continues to haunt them.  Along the way, she discovers a rich community of women helping women, survivors holding their own village “therapy sessions”, a female hunter leading a vigilante group in pursuit of the terrorists, and a psychologist building schools and programs to rehabilitate girl abductees.  


Mellissa Fung is a Canadian journalist and reporter for the CBC. She was sent to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008 to cover the presence of Canadian armed forces in the region[2]. On October 12, during her second tour, Fung was en route to a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul when her group encountered armed bandits[2]. The bandits grabbed Fung, stabbed her, and forced her into a car.[2]. She was then transported to a rural location in the mountains and forced into a small, dark cave, where she remained for 28 days[2] She was ultimately released on November 8 in a prisoner exchange, after weeks of negotiations between the Canadian and Afghan authorities and the gang who held her hostage[1].

On November 12, Fung was interviewed about her ordeal by CBC Radio’s Anna Maria Tremonti in Dubai[2] The interview won Tremonti and Fung a gold medal at the 2009 New York Festivals Radio Programming and Promotion Awards[3]. In 2011, Fung released the best-selling memoir “Under an Afghan Sky”, which chronicled her ordeal[4]

When Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in April 2014, the event drew international condemnation[5]. Fung was “horrified”[6] by the kidnapping. She felt compelled to make Captive when she discovered that the Chibok girls were only a “fraction of thousands of girls” who had been kidnapped, and felt that it was a story that needed to be heard[6]. Fung undertook conflict safety training in 2017 and embarked on several high-risk trips into northeastern Nigeria, an area of that country dominated by Boko Haram[7].

Over the course of four years, she interviewed survivors, connecting over the shared experiences in captivity and the process of healing.[8]. She shared her story, allowing the girls and young women she interview to feel more comfortable expressing their experience and the resulting trauma[9]. Many had been forced to marry their captors, were subjected to sexual assault and violence, and some were used in suicide bombings. Upon returning home after escaping, they were often stigmatized and ostracized by their communities, and faced a difficult healing process without mental health support[9]. By sharing their stories, Fung hoped to bring greater attention to the violence experienced by women and girls in the region, and the lack of resources for healing after their ordeal[8]


The film was released in Canada by TVO and Antica Productions in February 2021.[9]

See Also[edit]

  • Mellissa Fung
  • Boko Haram
  • Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping
  • Dapchi schoolgirls kidnapping


  1. 1.0 1.1 "globeandmail.com: Canadian journalist safe after secret Afghan kidnapping ordeal". 2008-11-09. Archived from the original on 2008-11-09. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Abducted CBC journalist released in Afghanistan | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  3. "CBC's Mellissa Fung interview wins gold at New York gala | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  4. "CBC reporter Mellissa Fung was abducted, stabbed and held captive in the Afghan desert for 28 days—and she wants to go back". Toronto Life. 2011-05-16. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  5. News, A. B. C. "'Bring Back Our Girls' Becomes Rallying Cry for Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls". ABC News. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Somos, Christy (2021-02-12). "Women who survived Boko Haram abductions share their stories with Mellissa Fung in 'Captive'". CTVNews. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  7. "Canadian journalist documents atrocities of Boko Haram - CityNews Toronto". toronto.citynews.ca. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Opinion: Nigeria's stolen girls still need our help". Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "How Mellissa Fung's abduction informed her reporting on the girls who escaped from Boko Haram | CBC Radio". CBC. Retrieved 2021-02-18.

Category:Documentary film

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