'Historic night' as Somalia screens first film in 30 years
Somalia hosted its first screening of a movie in three decades under heavy security on Wednesday, as the conflict-ravaged country hopes for a cultural renewal.
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.
"This is going to be a historic night for the Somali people, it shows how hopes have been revived ... after so many years of challenges," theater director Abdikadir Abdi Yusuf said before the screening.
"It's a platform that provides an opportunity to ... Somali songwriters, storytellers, movie directors and actors to present their talent openly."
The evening's program was two short films by Somali director Ibrahim CM – "Hoos" and "Date from Hell" – with tickets sold for US$10 each, expensive for many.
Mogadishu was home to many cinema halls during its cultural heyday, with the national theater also hosting live concerts and plays.
But the seaside capital fell silent after civil war erupted in 1991.
Warlords used the theater as a military base and the building fell into disrepair. It reopened in 2012, but was blown up by Al-Shabaab jihadists two weeks later.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group launches regular attacks in Mogadishu and considers entertainment evil.