‘Historic night’ as Somalia screens first film in 30 years

Somalia has hosted its first public film-screening in 30 years – raising hopes of a cultural revival in the war-ravaged country. Two short films by Somali director Ibrahim CM were shown at the National Theatre in the capital Mogadishu, where heavy security was in place.

The theatre has been a suicide bomb target and a base for warlords. Theatre director Abdikadir Abdi Yusuf said it was a “historic night for the Somali people”. “It shows how hopes have been revived… after so many years of challenges,” he told the AFP news agency. “It’s a platform that provides an opportunity to… Somali songwriters, storytellers, movie directors and actors to present their talent openly,” he added. Built by Chinese engineers as a gift from Mao Zedong in 1967, the National Theatre of Somalia has a history that reflects the tumultuous journey of the Horn of Africa nation. It has been targeted by suicide bombers and used as a base by warlords and it has never screened a Somali film until now. It closed in 1991 at the beginning of the civil war and was used as a base for warlords fighting for the capital. The theater fell into disrepair as a result. When it reopened in 2012, after repairs carried out by the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the building was immediately blown up by al-Shabaab militants who considered live entertainment and movies to be morally corrupt.