After 30 years without the joy of experiencing movies on the big screen, Somalia finally had its first public screening with two short films by director Ibrahim CM. For this momentous event, the National Theatre of Somali was chosen which has been the base for various warlords in the past as well as the target of suicide bombers.
“This is going to be a historic night for the Somali people: it shows how hopes have been revived … after so many years of challenges,” theatre director Abdikadir Abdi Yusuf said before the screening. “It’s a platform that provides an opportunity to … Somali songwriters, storytellers, movie directors and actors to present their talent openly.”
The National Theatre was built in 1967 as a gift from Chairman Mao and was considered to be a huge cultural centre where theatrical productions and musical concerts took place. However, all these community activities stopped once and for all when civil war broke out in 1991. Not just that, al-Qaida outfits in Somalia regularly target such events because they think that entertainment is a plot by the devil.
“I used to watch concerts, dramas, pop shows, folk dances and movies in the National Theatre during the good old days,” said Osman Yusuf Osman – a film buff who reflected on the glory days of the past when artistic culture was still alive. “It makes me feel bad when I see Mogadishu lacking the nightlife it once had. But this is a good start.”
“I was not lucky to watch live concerts and or movies in the theatre (earlier) … because I was still a child, but I can imagine how beautiful it was,” NGO employee Abdullahi Adan commented while talking about what this event means. “I want to experience this for the first time and see what it’s like to watch a movie with hundreds of people in a theatre.”
Due to legitimate security concerns, attendees had to pass through various security checkpoints. Hopefully, this is a step in the right direction which will revive the love for witnessing the magic of cinema in film theatres despite the sociopolitical conflicts in Somalia.