The Unique Life Philosophy of Abdi, Born in Somalia, Living in the Netherlands

at Aeon: When viewers are introduced to Abdiwahab Ali, the main character in the short documentary Neighbour Abdi, his charisma radiates from the screen as he showcases his creative metalwork and spins a series of lively potential titles for a film about his life. But viewers soon learn that his easygoing attitude is hard-earned as he recounts his early years in civil war-torn Somalia followed by emigrating to the Netherlands at the age of 11, where he experienced alienation, crime and imprisonment.

In the film, Ali and the Dutch filmmaker Douwe Dijkstra – who met when the two were renting art studios in the same building – use miniature sets and clever special effects to reconstruct pivotal moments from Ali’s past. The result is jarring, as scenes of violence from his childhood in Somalia lift to reveal green screens and actors who often can’t quite keep a straight face. These moments, as well as Ali’s calls to friends in Somalia and words on his personal philosophy, draw out the extraordinary differences of the everyday in these two places. A deft and distinctive look at how circumstances beyond our control shape our worlds, Dijkstra and Ali’s film is also a reminder of how, with an open mind, this needn’t be a barrier to understanding one another’s stories.

WATCH the documentary here.