The debut film by Somali-born Finnish director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed is produced by Bufo. Orange Studio handles sales.
With its first selection ever at the prestigious Critics Week, which comes on top of Juho Kuosmanen’s runner-up for a Palme d'or with Compartment N°6, Finland is making a big splash at Cannes this year, usually a privileged window for Danish and Swedish titles.
“We have a tremendous presence at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and I think that with these films we can really show the world how many-sided Finnish film is today,” told Lasse Saarinen, head of the Finnish Film Foundation to nordicfilmandtvnews.com.
“As far as I know Khadar Ahmed’s The Gravedigger’s Wife is the first Somali-language feature film ever made, and this comes from a Finnish director and a Finnish production company [Bufo]. Juho Kuosmanen’s Compartment N°6 was made during the Covid 19 pandemic. This shows how dynamic our new generation of filmmakers are. They do not mind hard obstacles but make their films better than ever.”
The Gravedigger’s Wife is among a small curated programme of seven feature length films, competing for the €15,000 Nespresso Grand Prize and the Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award at the Critics Week. All are feature debuts.
Written and directed by Khadar Ayderus Ahmed, The Gravedigger’s Wife was developed as part of the Cinéfondation Résidence 2015. The rising Finnish talent already made a name for himself in the short film scene with The Night Thief (2017), selected at several festivals including Göteborg, and as writer of Kuosmanen’s 2008 short film Citizens, starring Finnish/Somali actor Omar Abdi, also cast in The Gravedigger’s Wife.
In Ayderus Ahmed’s feature-length debut, Abdi plays Guled, a hard-working gravedigger, living with his beloved wife Nasra (Canadian supermodel Yasmin Warsame) and their teenage son Mahad (Kadar Abdoul Aziz Ibrahim) in the outskirts of Djibouti. When Nasra urgently needs a kidney transplant, Guled has to find the money to save her and keep the family together.
Charles Tesson, the Critics Week’s artistic director said the film “captivates with its beautiful, elegant and delicately crafted mise-en-scène, and a simple story that echoes the impact of tales and the virtues of fables”. “It is set in Djibouti, seldom seen in films. To save his wife Nasra from kidney disease, Guled must cross the desert, face his family and loved ones; and this survival story transforms this ordeal into a testament to his love. A life-lesson whose poetic magnitude radiates like the sun. An ode to love, beauty and life.”
The film is produced by Misha Jaari, Mark Lwoff, Risto Nikkilä for Bufo in Finland, in co-production with France’s Pyramide Productions and Germany’s Twenty Twenty Vision, with support among others from the Finnish Film Foundation. Bufo’s own distribution arm B-Plan will release it domestically.
Bufo is also co-producer of the Norwegian film The Innocents by Eskil Vogt, selected at Un Certain Regard.
Another competition entry at the Critics’ Week is the Colombian/Swedish/German/Qatari film Amparo by Simón Mesa Soto, co-produced in Sweden by Momento Film. The director won a Palme d’or in 2014 for his short film Leidi and was again in official selection in Cannes 2016 with his short film Madre.
Set in 1998, the film centres on the titular character Amparo, a single mother, who struggles to free her teenage son after he is drafted by the army and assigned to a war zone. She is thrown into a race against time in a society ruled by men, corruption and violence.
Speaking to nordicfilmandtvnews.com, Momento Film’s David Herdies who produced Mesa Soto’s award-winning short film Madre with his colleague Michael Krotkiewski said: "Simón [Mesa Soto] came with a script when we premiered Madre at Cannes’ Official Short Film Competition 2016, and I immediately fell in love with the story! Both me and my colleague Michael saw the potential to make a powerful and beautiful film, which would be a clear continuation of his strong short films Madre and Leidi. And we were right! We are super excited to start the journey of the film at the Critics’ Week.“
Meanwhile The Critics Week’s 10 short films competition programme includes Denmark’s 16-minute Inherent by Nicolai G. H. Johansen, a graduate from the Danish film school Super8.
The Critics Week’s 60th edition running July 7-15, is presided over by Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu.