LFF Review: The Gravedigger’s Wife

Guled and Nasra in a happy moment

Djibouti is the smallest nation in mainland Africa. Despite recent economic growth, largely driven by its strategic location on the Red Sea and a large service sector, almost half the population live in extreme poverty. Especially in rural areas. Roughly 600,000 people reside in Djibouti City, the capital. With a high unemployment rate and low wages, work can be hard to come by. Especially for a significant minority who are illiterate. Our hero needs to raise money quickly in The Gravedigger’s Wife.

Guled (Omar Abdi) lives on the edge of Djibouti City with his wife Nasra (Yasmin Warsame) and their son Mahad (Kadar Abdoul-Aziz Ibrahim). As a gravedigger, his daily routine involves waiting outside of the local hospital in the hope ‘work’ arrives. When his wife becomes increasingly ill with a severe kidney infection, the only way to save her is to raise enough money for an operation. He tries everything he can but to no avail. The only option is to return to his home village and claim what he believes is rightfully his.

The Gravedigger’s Wife tackles a number of societal issues wrapped within a larger parable. We follow Guled’s everyday life, seeing the frustrations of his work, observing the poverty on the streets, noticing the sporadic availability of healthcare service and witnessing the lack of reliable employment opportunities. Writer/director Khadar Ayderus Ahmed’s film lulls you into the steady rhythm of the streets. The natural beautify of Africa’s minnow is contrasted with the daily hardships and deprivations. The Gravedigger’s Wife is a film which exudes natural warmth but is also tinged with sadness.

The Gravedigger’s Wife screens at London Film Festival.  

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