‘Review: A Gripping Tale of Somali Family Struggling in the Shadow of War in the Village Next to Paradise’

Cannes-history-breaking movie by the talented filmmaker Mo Harawe showcases the tale of a determined family facing the looming threat of drone attacks and death.

‘The Village Next to Paradise’ CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

 In his debut feature, “The Village Next to Paradise,” Mo Harawe delivers a captivating story that made history at Cannes. This first-ever Somali film to grace the Croisette unfolds the survival journey of a family in a quiet Somali town, set against a harrowing backdrop. 

Every scene in Harawe’s film is underscored by the eerie sound of drones, amplifying the weight of the family’s struggles in a changing world. The reality of U.S. drone strikes in Somalia haunts the characters as they navigate life in a place overshadowed by violence and tragedy.

Life in Paradise village is shaped by the constant threat of warfare, where death hangs heavy in the air. Marmargade, a key figure in the film, grapples with the grim task of burying the dead, many of whom are victims of foreign attacks. When opportunities dwindle, Marmargade reluctantly embarks on risky ventures to secure a better future for his son.

Marmargade’s son Cigaal, blissfully unaware of the dangers that lurk above, faces a choice when educational opportunities arise. The family dynamics are tested as dreams clash and sacrifices are made in the pursuit of a better life. As the story unfolds, tensions rise, leading to gripping emotional conflicts.

Harawe’s film navigates complex themes with a gentle touch, much like the acclaimed work of other filmmakers like Gabriel Martins and Mahamet Saleh Haroun. The cinematography captures the haunting beauty of the village, avoiding clichés of poverty. Yet, the film is not without flaws—the pacing falters at times, and some performances lack depth.

Despite its shortcomings, “The Village Next to Paradise” resonates with its subtle optimism and authentic portrayal of human resilience. The narrative unfolds with a quiet grace, offering glimpses of hope amid despair. Through its characters’ struggles and triumphs, the film reminds us of the enduring power of hope.

Full credits

Venue: [Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard)

Production companies: FreibeuterFilm, Kazak Productions, Maanmaal Acc, Niko Film

Cast: Ahmed Ali Farah, Ahmed Mohamud Saleban, Anab Ahmed Ibrahim

Director-screenwriter: Mo Harawe

Producers: Sabine Moser, Oliver Neumann

Director of photography: Mostafa El Kashef

Production designer: Nuur Abdulkadir

Editor: Joana Scrinzi

Sound: Willis Abuto, Guadalupe Cassius, Anne Gibourg, Christophe Vingtrinier

Sales: Totem Films

In Somali

2 hours 13 minutes

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