Somali Justice

A rare and informative glimpse into a situation and part of the world that normally only receives minimal, lazy, and inaccurate coverage.

A still from "Somali Justice."

The Rory Peck Awards honor the work of freelance cameramen and women covering news and current affairs. This year’s finalists included two reports from Africa (Mali and Somalia), as well as pieces shot in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir, and Syria.

Two pieces caught our attention: The report from Somalia by Ahmed Farah is called ‘Somali Justice‘ and looks at the death penalty and the practice of qisas (equal retaliation) in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. The footage from Mali, which won the Rory Peck Award for News, was filmed by the British cameraman, Aris Roussinos and broadcast by VICE UK. Entitled ‘Ground Zero Mali: The Battle of Gao,’ the piece humiliates the Malian army, showing footage of their day-long battle with militant Islamists in the major northern Malian city of Gao, before they are eventually joined by French troops.

Here’s a short clip from ‘Ground Zero: Mali’:

You can watch the full film on YouTube or VICE’s website (link above).

And here’s a clip from ‘Somali Justice’:

Watch it in full here.

Although the finalists are not in the same category (‘Somali Justice’ was a finalist in the Features category), Farah’s piece is the better of the two. Roussinos’ report somehow managed to win despite the fact that his video camera ran out of memory at a pivotal moment in the battle, so the second half is essentially a slide show of still photos. In fact, the story shows the Malian troops as woefully unprepared, disorganized, and undisciplined, while glorifying the French troops, without whom Roussinos seems to believe the Malians would not have been able to win the battle. Yet conveniently for his argument, Roussinos’ video camera runs out of memory soon after the French join the battle. He is probably correct in his thinking, and the Malian troops do look rather out of their depth, but since there is not much footage of the French troops in action, the viewer can’t make an accurate comparison and has to take the reporter on his word. The report also showcases a tremendous amount of truly grisly footage, shot the day after the battle, of the corpses and severed heads and limbs of the Islamists (after all, no VICE news coverage would be complete without excessive and unnecessary images of carnage in the Third World).

‘Somali Justice,’ on the other hand, is a pretty significant piece of journalism, providing viewers with a rare and informative glimpse into a situation and part of the world that normally only receives minimal, lazy, and inaccurate coverage. Moreover, Ahmed Farah allows his Somali subjects to tell the story themselves — something that hardly ever happens in Western news stories on Somalia.

Further Reading

Between two evils

After losing its parliamentary majority for the first time, the African National Congress is scrambling to form a coalition government. The options are bleak.

Heeding the call

At the 31st New York African Film Festival, young filmmakers set the stage with adventurous and varied experiments in African cinema.