September 20, 2021

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‘Finnish cinema is so white,’ says Helmer, ‘The Gravedigger’s wife’

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Mogadishu-born Finnish writer-director Khadar Aydarus Ahmed continues to enjoy the successful festival management of his first feature. Screening this week in Toronto, “The Gravediggers Wife” premiered in Cannes Critics Week in July.

“We finished shooting in 2019. Last year we were invited to Cannes, but decided to wait for a better time,” Helmer explained. “Kane, me and my family and my actors, we were the only Somali in the audience. Now, in Toronto, there’s this big Somali community. They’re excited and waiting for the picture – people are sending me screenshots of their tickets!

Inspired by a sudden death that happened to his family 10 years ago in Helsinki, the photo shows a man “hunting corpses for a living”, waiting in front of a hospital for burial of a new body. But when his wife (Canadian model Yasmin Warsem) needs expensive surgery, Gravidiger Guled (Omar Abdi) and his younger son Mahad embark on their respective campaigns to save her.

Helsinki-based buffo Misha Zari, counting Mark Loof and Risto Nikkili among his producers, through sales conducted by Orange Studios, gives the story a chance to get Ahmed back to his roots and, with the help of photographer Artu Peltoma, the photo-show he says More known for suffering.

“People appreciate that I see these characters in a completely different light. They see it as a love story, as I wanted it to be, but they also realize that even though the film deals with some heavy issues, it never gives up hope. Miracles always happen, ”he said, describing the initial reactions as“ irresistible ”.

“We are accustomed to seeing African stories through the lens of Western filmmakers. It’s been hard for me: everything is always war or human trafficking, all these one-dimensional, stereotypical pictures that anyone can imagine. I will go: ‘Where is the love?’ Where are the love stories that I have seen in my own family? I wanted to show that there is love in that part of the world too. ”

Chosen as the inaugural film of love and anarchy-the art sidebar of the Helsinki International Film Festival, the Finnish film event, starting September 22 এবং and, according to last year’s choice, the Finnish-Iranian Hami Ramadan’s “Any Day Now” – “The Gravediggers” Wife “Finnish cinema can be encouraged to embrace diversity,” Ahmed said.

“There’s been a lot of talk but I still haven’t seen anyone do anything about it,” he says. “Some steps need to be taken. Finnish cinema is so white – it’s really not that diverse, at all. I hope this movie, or this kind of movie, will take the industry in another direction. ”

Admitting that even his crew members were not familiar with African films before the shooting, Ahmed also had trouble finding similar stories in Finland with Allen Gomez’s “Fallitica” or Abdarrahman Sisako’s Oscar-nominated “Timbuktu”.

“There is no place for them in this country. If you see

Ile Arena, there are lots of European movies, American movies, but you don’t watch African movies. Even at festivals like Love and Anarchy, you might see, recruited from some other A-list event. The situation will not change until the Finnish audience is properly introduced to such stories, ”he said.

“We used to hear that black films don’t travel, which has also become a myth. Finnish distributors decide not to show them, but people are really interested, “he said, noting that at least things are changing internationally, such as Egyptian director Omar El Zohairi’s” Feather “,” Neptune Frost “or the main competition. Kane is joining “The Gravediggers Wife” this year.

“Before, you only had one African film at the whole festival. I really hope this is not just a trend but a real change that is going to happen, ”he added.

Admitting that he wanted to inspire other Somali filmmakers to make their own films in their mother tongue, Ahmed is not at all ready to stop.

“I was telling my friends, and my colleagues, that this was just the beginning. From now on I want to make every picture of Africa. That’s true. “

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