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Cannes Film Festival: Mo Harawe Represents Somali Cinema with THE VILLAGE NEXT TO PARADISE


Cannes - The Village Next To Paradise
Mo Harawe is a Somali filmmaker and writer known for his evocative storytelling and exploration of themes like migration, identity, and the human experience. Drawing from his personal background and the socio-political issues affecting Somali communities, Harawe crafts narratives that are both poignant and universally resonant.

In his film, The Village Next To Paradise, Harawe chose a windy Somali village where a newly assembled family navigated between their different aspirations and the complex world surrounding them. The emotional depth and visual power of the film earned him a spot in the festival’s Un Certain Regard category.

AM: How does it feel like to be representing Somalia here in Cannes?
MH: It's great and I am honored. But at the same time, I wish there were more films from my country. On one side I'm happy, but on the other side it raises many questions.

AM: And why are there not enough Somali films in festivals?
MH: I think Somalia doesn't have a film structure at all. It's not even a lack of people, we are not interested in making films. Now with online, more things are happening, there are filmmakers from the diaspora who went back to live in Somalia and are starting to change things.  

AM: Would you say the few projects produced are reflective of the reality?
MH: Yes, it's based on reality but still needs to develop.  

AM: How was it like preparing for your film?
MH: We didn't prepare that much, which was good in hindsight. Because if we would have prepared and found out that it would be challenging then maybe we would have given up. We shot the film in 64 days and that was the best thing. We jumped into the water and then said like “Okay, now how should we swim?” That's how we made the film and that's how flexible we were.

AM: You mentioned some challenges…
MH: We didn't have everything figured out because we were rushing, sometimes we didn’t have the location. In the evening when we finished, we looked for the location of the next day. But at the same time, it was fresh because we were coming to a new set and creating content in the moment. When you are there for the first time you have to take quick decisions. Where to put the camera, where it should be, where it probably stays. It's like a survival thing.

AM: Would you say your advocating for social change?
MH: The film calls for changing something in the society. It's influencing something. I would say politics are in the background. Because it's about what to show and what not to show.

AM: How does it feel to make it to Cannes?
MH: It’s a big stage to share a film and the film gets more exposure and rightfully many people will see it. Maybe there’s a lot of expectation but that's not for me, I think it's more from the outside. I will not know as I will never be fully satisfied with my work.