Burning Voices

Documentary, In production
Length: 60 min
Premiere: November 2020
Production: Ilokuva, Naukkarinen & Co
Director: Pirjo Ojala


  • What is it like to be both visible and invisible at the same time?
    Through dance, Burning Voices reflects the experiences of three acid burn victims from different parts of the world in their search for new identity.


  • Deus, Karli, Mehwish. Their lives are different but they have one thing in common. They have all been victims of acid violence. At that moment, life as they knew it was over.
  • ”Am I dead?” The film opens with the attack, and its arc loosely follows the phases of traumatic crisis: shock phase, reaction phase, processing phase and reorientation phase. It explores the emotions and questions that the different stages of survival raise. From raw pain to seeking understanding, through nightmares to the first look in the mirror, the hiding and bitterness, to learning to accept oneself and taking the first step to rejoining the outside world – and realizing the journey has just begun. How to become a part of the society when your trauma is for everyone to see?


  • What is the meaning of looks, your own gaze and that of others? Why losing the looks destroys one’s life, don’t people have more value than their outer beauty?

    The three personal stories alternate and flow together, between past and present. Burning Voices combines dance, interviews, abstract images and images of everyday life into a multilayered film, exploring and contemplating the complexity of surviving violence and building an identity. The contemplations expand from personal introspection to more universal topics – from building one’s identity within their genders and cultural backgrounds, to how looks and the meaning of beauty can be connected to ending acid violence.


Main Characters

Deus, male, 35 years old, Uganda.

Deus was leaving for work one morning in 2010 when his ex-girlfriend threw acid on him. He lost his job as an accountant in an aid organization. It’s not easy to find a new job, especially after he became also a victim of a hit- and-run and lost his leg in 2014. Now Deus plans to build a house for him and his wife and dreams of having a master’s degree.

”It will be one day.”

Karli, female, 36 years old, The United States.

Karli was attacked in 2006, as a revenge to her boyfriend. She had no idea he had been into some illegal street activity. First three men beat her up and tried to kidnap her. Two months later two women threw acid on her. Now Karli has a five-year-old son and works actively against acid violence.

”I earned my stripes.”

Mehwish, transgender, 31 years old, Pakistan.

Mehwish was attacked in 2002, because she turned down an admirer. She worked as a wedding dancer and lived with transvestites. One night Mehwish went to bed and woke up in hospital, blind. After hiding for years, she got back to life with the help of music and dance.

”I have a life to live. If you don’t have any humour in life, you’ll be dead.”




According to Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI), about 1500 acid attacks take place every year around the globe. The real figure is likely much higher, since acid violence is a hidden form of violence and many attacks go unreported. About 80 % of the victims are women and children, although there are some regional differences as well: in Uganda about 43 % of the victims are men. The reason behind the attacks is often a revenge or jealousy, it can also be connected to politics or business. Acid violence is correlated with gender inequality, acid’s cheapness and accessibility and the failure of courts to convict perpetrators. The act causes severe physical, psychological and social scarring. Acid violence is not restricted to a particular race, religion or geographical location.

Production Company

    The production company Ilokuva, Naukkarinen & Co specializes in documentaries and animations. It was founded by Lasse Naukkarinen and Eila Hutri in 1980. Their son, the producer and sound designer Leo Naukkarinen joined the company in 2009.

    Ilokuva has produced over 30 documentaries and experimental short films, and many of them have won awards in festivals. The ethics, diversity and richness of expression are the ground values for Ilokuva.