What The Gravedigger’s Wife Win Means For Somali Film Future

The Gravedigger’s Wife won the grand prize at the prestigious Pan-African Film Festival, FESPACO, in Burkina Faso. The 27th FESPACO edition, delayed this year because of the pandemic, celebrates every two years films produced largely in Africa by Africans. The Gravedigger’s Wife, written and directed by Khadar Ahmed, a Finno-Somali, was awarded the FESPACO Gold Stallion competing with 16 other films.

About the movie

A rare full-lengt feature film in Somali, the story is about the love story of a couple living with their son in a poor neighborhood in Djibouti. When Nasra (Yasmin Warsame), the wife played by Somali-born Canadian model Yasmin Warsame, suffers from severe kidney disease and must undergo emergency surgery, the family’s balance is threatened, and her gravedigger husband Guled (Omar Abdi) must find money to pay for the expensive operation.

In addition to winning the prestigious award, known as the Yennenga Gold Stallion, he also received $ 36,000 in prizes. The film also won the award for best music. The prizes were awarded during the closing ceremony of Fespaco in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital.

Last July, The Gravedigger’s Wife was presented at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the International Critics’ Week, and on September it won the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Amplify Voices Award. The film is also Somalia’s first entry in the Best International Feature Film category at the Oscars. The film will be released in Finland and Norway on November 12, and in France in 2022.

About the director

Born in Mogadishu, Khadar Ayderus Ahmed, also a writer, immigrated to Finland at the age of 16 with his family and obtained refugee status. He directed his first short film, Me ei vietetä joulua, in 2014, then two others in 2017, Yövaras, and 2018, The Killing of Cahceravga.

Ahmed’s love for his origin and concern for his people to appreciate his film is central to his work. He said earlier to The Guardian, that he “made this film for Somali people to watch a film in their mother tongue without needing subtitles” and added he “wanted to make this film with a 100% Somali cast and 100% Somali language, without a single word of another language. From the beginning to the end, everything is in Somali. That was something I fought for.”

During the film screening at the TIFF, Ahmed was thrilled by the large number of Somalis living in Toronto who attended the event and enjoyed this rare opportunity of a film set in the Horn of Africa, showing Somali actors speaking their mother tongue.

Somali Film Future

The internationally acclaimed film is an encouragement to Somali artists around the world at a time when Somalia is emerging from a long period of disunity and political strife.

After a careful restoration by the current administration, the reopening of the National Theater reminded many of happier times and gives hope to many Somali artists to one day see their production projected in their country.

On September 22 evening, Mogadishu residents reconnected with the world of cinema with the first screening of films in 30 years, a cultural event organized in the Somali capital until now plagued by insecurity.

Two short films, “Hoos” and “Date from Hell”, wrote and starred by Kaif Jama, 24, and directed by Ibrahim CM, were screened for the first time. The public answered the call and came in large numbers even a high price entry ticket for many city residents.

After spending years watching Hollywood, Bollywood and now Yesilcam (Turkish), Somalis yearn for film productions by local artists and a chance to showcase their unique skills and experience. If the current state building continues as it began, Somalia could benefit from the economic effects of this multibillion industry.