synopsis for feature film


Length: 90 minutes
Director: Abdi Jama
Author: Roelof-Jan Minneboo
Production: MovieTron & Arizona Films
Co production Somaliland: Igal, Yusuf Ismail Jamal

Production money granted by Fonds Sud (France)

Selected by l'Atelier, co production workshop Cannes Film Festival 2008

Subsidy for rewrite to script of Dutch Film Fund 

Production money granted by Global Film Initiative (USA)

Queleh is the story of the Somali refugee Abdi Jama, now living in the Netherlands. When he was about ten years old, he witnessed his father being arrested, leaving him with the responsibility for his family.

It is still early but the sun is already burning down on the red earth. Queleh (10 years old) is picking up roots and weeds from the furrow his father makes with his bull-drawn plough. Ali (35) pushes the plough shears into the soil. Suddenly a dust cloud appears on the horizon. The roaring of a car engine tears through the peaceful sounds of the countryside. An army jeep stops on the edge of the red field. Three soldiers jump out and drag Ali away. Queleh grabs at his father’s trousers as the soldiers lift him into the jeep. One of the soldiers knocks Queleh down with the butt of his riffle. The jeep drives off and Queleh is left facedown in the field his father has just ploughed.

Queleh is based on the childhood of the Dutch-Somali director Abdi Jama. Just as adolescence was about to hit, his father was arrested in the cruel Somali civil war.

From one day to the other, his safe and quiet life had come to an end.

Queleh is now the head of his family and is responsible for the family income. He has to harvest the crops and has to travel to the city on his own to sell them. In the city, Queleh witnesses how the soldiers decide upon life and death. As he tries to contact the rebel movement, Queleh is arrested and tortured. He survives.

When he returns to his village, he sees that the soldiers have destroyed the cornfields, the papaya trees, the wells and his family corral. The village elder Issa, wants Queleh to join the growing flow of refugees. Queleh decides to lead both his and Issa’s family through the riverbed to Ethiopia.


Queleh starts to run, away from the field, through the savannah. He jumps over bushes, hurts his leg, but he keeps running. Then he sees Issa, the village elder, appearing in the empty landscape. Queleh, runs towards him and tells him what has happened. Issa nods: the devils. Queleh stares at Issa hopefully. But there are no wise words, no gesture of solace or a hand on his young shoulder. Issa walks on. Queleh is left standing in the vast savannah. Alone. He swallows and wipes the sweat from his face. He must be strong for his father’s sake.

Somalia evokes images of sand, heat, starvation and violence. These are logical associations: since the independence from Italy and Great Britain in 1960, the country has been characterized by civil war, dictatorship and starvation. In 1969 colonel Siad Barre staged a coup d'état and gradually turned Somalia into a Marxist dictatorship. In 1977, a civil war broke out that in fact is still going. In the early eighties, the Isaaq clan in northern Somalia fell victim to suppression and prosecution by the army. The people in the north declared their own independent republic in 1991, which held its first free elections in 2003. Although the country has not received any international diplomatic recognition, there is peace.

Abdi Jama will be the director, he was born in 1973 in northern of Somalia and fled to the Netherlands - without his family –in 1988. In 2002 he graduated from the Dutch Film & Television Academy.

Scriptwriter Roelof-Jan Minneboo finished the second draft of the screenplay in May 2007.

The development of the screenplay has been financed by MiraMedia, Oxfam Novib and VluchtelingenWerk.

Š 2007 Roelof-Jan Minneboo • MovieTron

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