Life on the Horn

Two men squat on their beds, still half asleep. Entering by way of a crack in the door, the wind blows through their meagre dwelling. After a while, the young man hands the older one a pill, adding it is the last. It is in tersely concise tableaus such as this, captured in enchanting black and white, that the story unfolds of an everyday catastrophe taking place on the Somali coast. While the son takes care of his dying father, the surrounding countryside grows empty. Neighbors are in the process of moving out as the young man delivers a load of sand to a long since abandoned construction site. Only its owner remains, hanging on to a prayer chain, his last mainstay.
It has been over the course of several decades that Europeans, above all the former colonial power Italy – have been dumping illegal toxic garbage in the ocean at the Horn of Africa, allegedly in exchange for arms shipments to local warring parties. Since the 2004 earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the region, the Somali coastal area is contaminated.
How does one show such a "slow" catastrophe, with causes and effects that stretch over the course of several human lifetimes? Life on the Horn tells it elliptically, near wordlessly, using the bare minimum, finding precise and highly sensitive images to register this chronic violence – in gazes, gestures, landscapes. Director Mo Harawe was born in Mogadishu and has been living in Austria since 2009. He depicts an environment that virtually engraves itself on the bodies of its residents, whether as shortness of breath or an all-pervasive sense of abandonment. Life on the Horn is political narrative cinema in the form of grieving: With the barest of means the film succeeds in making the incomprehensible comprehensible. (Nikolaus Perneczky)
Translation: Eve Heller

For decades, toxic waste has been illegally deposited on the coast of Somalia. The tsunami earthquake in 2004 damaged the poisoned containers, which led to the spread of diseases. Many local people had to leave their villages, but some stayed and lived with the aftermath.

Orig. Title
Life on the Horn
Somalia, Austria, Germany
25 min
Mo Harawe
Short fiction
Orig. Language
English, french, italian
Mo Harawe
Mo Harawe
Mo Harawe
Dimi Mint Abba, Khalifa Ould Eide, Hassan Adan Samatar, Adbi Tahliil
Alexander von Piechowski
Maxamed Maxamuud Jamac
Sound Design
Alexander von Piechowski
Christi Iorga
Color grading
Jakob Plattner
Maxamed Axmed Maxamed, Cabdiraxmaan Maxamed, Maxamed Maxamuud Jamac, Mohamed Hersi, Faadumo Abshir, Xuseen Abdirisaaq
Elisa Cano
Executive Producer
Deko Adano Ali, Mo Harawe, Alexander von Piechowski
Nuux Muuse Birjeeb
Supported by
Innovative Film Austria, Wien Kultur MA 7
Available Formats
DCP 2K flat (Distribution Copy)
Aspect Ratio
Sound Format
Frame Rate
25 fps
Color Format
Digital File (prores, h264)
Festivals (Selection)
Uppsala - Int. Short Film Festival (Uppsala Award in Memory of Ingmar Bergman)
Cairo International Film Festival
Rio de Janeiro - Encontro de Cinema Negro Zózimo Bubul
Locarno - Festival Int. de film
Bogota - MUICA
Den Haag – Movies that Matter Festival
Prizren - DokuFest, International Documentary and Short Film Festival
Lima - Alterna Festival Internacional de Cine
Klosterneuburg - Shortynale
Panchgani (India) - All Living Things Environmental Film Festival
Nijmegen - Go Short Film Festival
Glasgow Short Film Festival
Graz - Diagonale, Festival des österreichischen Films (Thomas Pluch Script Award)
Wien - VIS Vienna Shorts (Youth Jury Award (BEST FICTIONAL ÖW FILM))
Saarbrücken - Filmfestival Max Ophüls Preis
Grimstadt - Kortfilmfestivalen
Lausanne - Festival cinémas d'Afrique
Berlin - ALFILM Arabische Film Festival
München - Unified Filmmakers Festival (Honorable Mention)
Istanbul - İFSAK Short Film Festival