YIDFF 2017 Africa Views
Mogadishu Soldier
An Interview with Torstein Grude (Director)

Blind Somalia

Q: I was deeply moved by the incomparable images of Somalia in this film. Your determination to brave the risks, go to Somalia, and film present conditions—I think we might also call it a sense of justice or duty—where does that spring from?

TG: From the very beginning, I’ve wanted to produce a work that could be of benefit to the world. When I was trying to figure out what to do with my life, I thought that I wanted to use film to convey people living in severe circumstances and their struggles, and I discovered that the documentary film manifested what I wanted to do.

Before this film, I had two projects in Tanzania and Burundi, but I wasn’t able to film the materials I wanted at the time. The people involved with the film onsite were injured, imprisoned, or tortured. Because of those experiences, I wanted to take a different approach with the filming this time, and I tried to convey the actualities of Somalia’s civil war by asking Somalian soldiers to operate the cameras. I wanted to convey the actualities of war in a more forthright way, but it might distort reality if I handle the actual filming myself. I thought, in that case, I could have the soldiers onsite handle the filming, and in doing so, we could properly capture the actual conditions.

Q: I think that’s tied to the risks they face, but how were you able to establish a relationship of trust between you and these cameramen who would take on such a dangerous request?

TG: I owe them my life. During my earlier project in Tanzania, I was captured by mercenaries and was in quite the dangerous situation, but the Burundian army rescued me. When I showed the camera I had with me to a couple of the soldiers, they showed great interest, so I started a simple film school right there and then, and taught them how to use the camera. That was the beginning of our relationship.

Q: In this film, children are forced to undergo military training regardless of whether they are among allies or enemies. What are the present conditions in Africa like, with adults brainwashing children?

TG: I’ve watched over 500 items of footage shot for this film. As I watched them one by one, I realized that at first, you don’t see the enemy, but day by day, the enemy gradually gets closer, and among both the enemies and the prisoners, it is not the adults, but the children who make up the majority. In Somalia, children’s applications to become soldiers are acknowledged. Of course, the children don’t understand the adults’ ideologies at all. In Somalia, the tragic reality is that they wage war by pitting children against children. What is more, the Somalian government kills or tortures its enemies, regardless of whether they are children or adults.

Q: By making this film, were you hoping that people throughout the world would become aware of what is happening in Somalia, that present conditions would be improved?

TG: Somalia is a country that does not receive much media coverage in Europe. Even if 50 people are killed in a single day, it would probably just be minor news. So, with this film, I wanted to convey that which is not covered by the media, have the audience become invested in Somalia, and kindle their desire to learn about it. Moreover, on Africa’s battlefields, it is very common for the local people to be used in the war effort, and the reality is that there are many cases of practices like forced prostitution. I wanted the people who saw this film to understand that side of Africa’s situation.

(Compiled by Abenoki Tatsuya)

Interviewers: Abenoki Tatsuya, Numazawa Zenichiro / Interpreter: Tomita Kaori / Translator: Joelle Tapas
Photography: Kano Haruna / Video: Nomura Yukihiro / 2017-10-07