• Golden Globe Awards

The Gravedigger’s Wife (Somalia)

Somalia’s capital Djibouti serves as the backdrop of this love story about Guled, a gravedigger, and his wife Nasra, a woman dealing with chronic kidney disease. They have a teenage son, Mahad and are struggling to make ends meet. As if life were not hard enough, now Nasra needs expensive surgery to survive. Guled knows that more funerals are the only way he can make the money so desperately needed. The irony of a man anxiously waiting in front of hospitals for the bodies of the dead in order to spare his wife the same fate is not lost on the audience.
Director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed was born in Somalia but left the country for Finland when he was a teenager. He was working as a screenwriter when a death in his own family inspired him to write this story more than ten years ago. Attending the family member’s burial, he was surprised how fast it happened and learned that this was according to Islamic tradition. And it explained the constant presence of the gravediggers outside the hospitals. Upon completing his script, he could not imagine a Finnish director would truly understand the premise of his story. So, he decided to study directing, rewrote the screenplay in 2015, and set out to find financing.
He cast Yasmin Warsame to play Nasra and Omar Abdi as Guled. They are the only non-Somali actors in the cast. Warsame is from Canada, Abdi from Finland. Everyone else is from Djibouti including Kadar Abdoul-Aziz Ibrahim who plays Mahad, who had never acted before.
An endless string of rejections later and after Ahmed was asked numerous times to make the film in French and cast known actors, he finally got the project together.
“I 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,” he said. “I am Somali, and I made this film for Somali people to watch a film in their mother tongue without needing subtitles.”
He also stuck to his guns with the simplicity of the story which flies in the face of the typical cliché of painting Somalis as either pirates or terrorists or a combination of both.
“When there are films made about the Somali community, we are always depicted as cold or violent. We can create our own stories and tell those stories with dignity. Tell us about your grandmother, or your crazy cousin’s failing marriage, or your favorite neighbors – these are beautiful and heartwarming stories.”
The Gravedigger’s Wife went on to win the grand prize at the s pan-African film festival in Burkina Faso. Ahmed, a first-time director wrote on Instagram: “I’m in awe. I’m speechless. Words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation for this type of love from the continent.”  It is also the first film from Somalia to be submitted for the Oscars.