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Reviews - The Gravedigger's Wife

The Gravedigger's Wife

Reviewed By Stephen Pye

The Gravedigger's Wife
The Gravedigger's Wife
A group of shabbily dressed men, each carrying a shovel, wait outside a hospital in Djibouti City, Somalia, in the faint hope that someone will die. They are professional gravediggers, and their living depends upon being at hand when a corpse becomes available. Their friendly banter is an odd contrast to both their grim profession and their poverty. This is the gritty reality that introduces director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed's "The Gravedigger's Wife", a multi-nation collaboration filmed in Somalia, which had its world premiere at Cannes in July. It is also Somalia's very first Oscar submission.

Director Ahmed, who also wrote the screenplay, explained why he chose such an obscure and lowly profession for his main character when introducing the film at the Toronto Film Festival. "The film was really important to me in so many ways," he said, "Because, as a filmmaker, I'm always interested in addressing social issues; talking about things that are not addressed, or are taboo to talk about, or are unpopular. For me, it was all about handing the microphone to these people; to let them talk, and have their voices heard".

The central character is Guled (Omar Abdi), a man with a wife and son. Despite the family's extreme poverty, Guled has been content with his life, until his beloved wife, Nasra, became ill. Treatment for her kidney disease would cost more than the family would see in a year. Nasra is resigned, but Guled still hopes to find a way to save her, and his efforts make up the central thread of the story.

The film is beautiful to watch , scenically captivating, and, in spite of the harrowing story, has enough moments of joy and generosity to move and enthral. It was very highly rated by a good audience on Sunday evening at the Alhambra.

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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.

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