Somalia’s first ever Oscar submission ‘The Gravedigger’s Wife’ secures UK deal

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Screen Daily
Thursday September 8, 2022
BY MONA TABBARA

Aya Films, a UK distribution company with a focus on African and Black films, has acquired Finnish-Somali filmmaker Khadar Ayderus Ahmed’s directorial debut The Gravedigger’s Wife.

The Somali-language feature will be released theatrically from October 21 across the UK. It will mark the first time a fully Somali-language feature has been released in UK cinemas. France’s Orange Studio handles international sales.

The title premiered in 2021 at Cannes Critics’ Week, and made history in the same year as Somalia’s first ever Oscar submission.

Set in Djibouti City in the Horn of Africa, the drama stars Finnish-Somali actor Omar Abdi as a gravedigger trying to raise the money for a kidney transplant needed by his wife, played by Canadian-Somali model and actress Yasmin Warsame.

The feature is produced by Finnish producer Mark Lwoff and Misha Jaari at Helsinki-based Bufo Productions in co-production with France’s Pyramide Productions and Germany’s Twenty Twenty Vision.

After it world premiered in Cannes, The Gravedigger’s Wife went on to screen in Toronto’s Contemporary World Cinema line-up, where it won the Amplify Voices award, aimed at filmmakers from under-represented communities. The feature also played at the BFI London Film Festival.

“I made this film for Somali people across the world. It is a story rooted in a culture I was born and raised in, but it is also a universal story of love, dedication and the lengths we are willing to go to for people we care about,” said Ahmed.

Aya Films is collaborating on the release with Kayd Somali Arts and Culture, a London-based arts organisation, to position the film for Somali communities across the UK, with Q&As and complementary events from Somali artists, poets, musicians and storytellers.

The release is planned to coincide with the UK’s annual Somali Week, a festival organsed by Kayd, that runs from October 21-October 30.

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