Abwaan Said Salah Ahmed, a Somali director finds his lost film reel in Pune’s NFAI after 34 years 

Somalian director finds his lost film reel in Pune’s NFAI after 34 years

Dec 27, 2019 

HT Correspondent


Pune It was straight out of a film narrating the lost and find story! A Somalian film director, who had given up hope of finding his debut feature film, was left speechless on spotting the cans of his film reels at the Pune-based National Film Archive of India (NFAI). For Said Salah Ahmed, 74, it was an emotional reunion as he discovered his film reel at NFAI on Thursday. The director came from the US to Pune in search of his film “A Somali Dervish” made in 1984. He had last seen the film in 1985 in Abu Dhabi after which it was considered to be lost.

“I have no words to express my joy and happiness on finding these film reels. It is like finding your lost child after so many years,” said Ahmed. “It was my first film and is very special because it is a documentation of the revolutionary Somali Dervish Movement under the leadership of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, who was revered by Somalis as a national hero. There is not a single print of my film available anywhere in the world and I am truly grateful to NFAI for having preserved the film,” he said.

“We are thrilled to discover that a film, which is so important in the history of Somalia, has been found in our collection. The negatives of 35 mm film were deposited in NFAI several years back after Bombay Lab (Mumbai) was closed down. Cinema as a medium has no language and no borders and we are proud to have preserved a part of the cinematic heritage of a country in our vaults,” said Prakash Magdum, director, NFAI.

According to Magdum, NFAI received a query a few months back from an award-winning film-maker and photographer Mark Brecke who is working on a documentary that focuses on Somali cinema.

“In turn, Mauli Singh, the field producer of the documentary — Somalia In the Picture — which is tracing the lost film heritage of Somalia destroyed in the war, visited us and the search was undertaken through our database that resulted in this rare find,” Magdum said.

The film, 4 hours and 40 minutes long, has dialogues in seven languages including Somali, Arabic, Italian, English and Hindi. The movie included an actual descendant of Mohammed Abdullah Hassan as its star and featured interviews of several participants of the revolution. The film was edited and processed in the Bombay Lab in Mumbai in 1983-84.

“I have been working on a film project on Somali cinema and filming the remains of the Somali film industry and cinemas. The project is supported by UNESCO and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Finding this prestigious feature film in NFAI has been the most incredible story on Somali cinema. The fact that NFAI houses a Somali film is a testament to the commitment the institution has to preserve and sustain the cinematic arts,” said Brecke.