Guled (Omar Abdi) finds work difficult as a grave digger. There’s the occasional person who passes to the afterlife, but a developing Djibouti means less things for him to do. There’s a scene where he and his fellow workers rush to an ambulance only to see someone with an injury.
This lack of work means that his wife Nasra (Yasmin Warsame) waits longer to cure her worsening kidneys. Despite of everything they go through and how the film shows it, this film is still a remarkable depiction of Black love. And the annoyances and the difficulties to maintain love.
The Gravedigger’s Wife looks beautiful enough but some of the iconography feels too familiar, especially at the point of the film where Guled leaves the city to beg for help from his estranged family. I get it, some stereotypes are true, but this is an African movie with desert imagery.
Khadar Ayderus Ahmed already showed Gravedigger’s in Cannes to a subdued but warm enough reception from critics. Some of them have bandied about the term ‘poverty porn’ in describing the film and that’s valid. There’s a slight cruelty here too, in which his family says no to Guled, following customs.
I watched this specifically to see a film about Djibouti, this one being a Somalian production. Any of those criticisms feel moot when the actors save the films they’re in. Another reason to watch this film is for Warsame’s breakout performance as well as Abdi’s depiction of preserving through difficulty.