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Totem Boards Sales On Cannes Title ‘The Village Next To Paradise’

EXCLUSIVE: French sales and production company Totem Films has boarded international sales on Somalia-set drama The Village Next To Paradise by Mo Harawe.

The movie was among 14 titles announced for the Un Certain Section of the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival at the event’s press conference in Paris on Thursday.

Set in a remote Somali village, the feature revolves around a newly assembled family as its members navigate between their different aspirations and the complex world surrounding them. Only love, trust and resilience will power them through their life paths.

“It is a privilege to afford to dream, let alone to become a filmmaker,” said Harawe. following the news. “The Village Next to Paradise serves as a metaphor for a country that holds the potential for paradise, were it not for the circumstances that make such a reality impossible.”

 The film stars Somalian actors Ahmed Ali Farah, Anab Ahmed Ibrahim and Ahmed Mohamud Saleban.

The Village Next To Paradise is produced by Sabine Moser and Oliver Neumann from Austria’s Freibeuter Film (Great FreedomHinterland), Germany’s Niko Film (More Than Ever), France’s Kazak Productions (Corsage, Titane) and Somalia’s Maanmaal ACC.

“We can’t wait to present Mo Harawe’s outstanding debut feature about family, love and resilience in Cannes,” said Moser and Neumann.

The Village Next To Paradise is Mogadishu-born Somali and Austrian filmmaker Harawe debut feature-length film. He also wrote the screenplay.

An alumnus in Visual Communication and Film at Kunsthochschule Kassel, Harawe has already made waves on the festival circuit with a number of buzzy short films.

His second short Life on the Horn, about the consequences of toxic waste landing on the Somali coastline, earned a Special Mention at Locarno International Film Festival in 2020.

His latest short Will My Parents Come to See Me, about a young prison inmate, was nominated for a European Film Award and won a German Lola award in 2022 and clinched the the Grand Prix at Clermont-Ferrand and Austrian Film Award for Best Short Film in 2023.

Paris-based Totem Films have been tracking The Village Next To Paradise since it presentation at the Marrakech Film Festival’s Atlas Workshops last November, where it won the $21,000 (€20,000) post-production Atlas Award.

The industry jury comprised Cannes Critics’ Week head Ava Cahen, Moroccan filmmaker Meriem Benm’Barek and Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy.

“With a precise mise en scène, Mo opens a wide frame on a complex situation to better focus on the core of human connections, love, forgiveness and memories,” said Totem Films co-heads Laure Parleani and Bérenice Vincent.

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