Cinema is Now a Crime in Somalia according to Canadian Community Initiatives

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On the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian filmmakers lament that it's suddenly a crime to watch a movie in Somalia -- a movie, a video, or a television show. Even music is now forbidden in this East African country.

Toronto, ON (PRWEB) September 6, 2006 -- On the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian filmmakers lament that it's suddenly a crime to watch a movie in Somalia -- a movie, a video, or a television show. Even music is now forbidden in this East African country. Over the last few weeks the international media has reported several instances of United Islamic Courts (UIC) gunmen storming into full movie houses and arresting everyone, including women and children.

Hundreds of people, sitting quietly watching a movie are rounded up forcibly and severely punished or even killed. The UIC, who control the capitol and much of Somalia, have decreed entertainment activities such as going to the movies or watching soccer on TV to be prohibited.

For the last 15 years Somalia has suffered through drought, floods, famine and warlords. Day to day life meant violence, fear and bribing gunmen high on quat, (an amphetamine-like leaf that is chewed). So, when the UIC seized military control of Somalia this summer, there was hope for a better life. But this seems to come at a cost in the form of strict controls and restrictions on the Somali people. As reported on SomaliNet as well as other news agencies, the UIC has announced a series of decrees for the local population, -- including one forbidding movies, music, films and television shows.

Storytelling has always been an ancient custom with the Somali people who have a vivid oral history of stories, song and poems. Their love of cinema is simply a modern continuation of their tradition of storytelling. But storytelling via celluloid is now strictly forbidden.

This whole situation doesn't sit well with documentary filmmakers Laura J. Forth and James A . Smith, whose newly released film, Leopards in the Snow, a documentary about Somalia' will have its world television premiere this weekend on Toronto's OMNI.2 television network. "It's always been our dream to take the film back to Somalia to screen it for the Somali people. For the first time they have a feature length documentary in their own language -- about them.

We thought a screening in Somalia's capital Mogadishu would be a way of honouring them -- we've grown to love them so much as a people. 'Leopards in the Snow' features Somalis telling in their own words what they've been through in terms of the civil war and the personal suffering they've endured. It gives a message of hope and also peace. We support peace in Somalia. We don't believe in violence. We've been invited all over the world to show this movie - from Sweden to Minneapolis. Finland TV is considering it, as are the BBC and PBS, but no one in Somalia is allowed to watch it. They'd be given 40 lashes or worse." From her Toronto production office Forth adds, 'I find it incredibly ironic that on the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival nobody here in Toronto seems to care. Innocent people are being hurt and persecuted just for going to the movies. How sad is that?"

Luckily, Somalis living in Canada will get a chance to see the film. The English versions will air September 9th and 16th at 7pm, 2006. The Somali language versions will air September 23 and 30th at 8pm, 2006, Omni 2, Rogers Television. For information please go to the website at:

English Language Versions:
PART 1 - Saturday, September 9th at 7PM on OMNI.2
PART 2 - Saturday, September 16th at 7PM on OMNI.2

Somali Language versions:
Saturday September 23, at 8pm
Saturday September 30th at 8pm

Leopards in the Snow was exclusively funded through OMNI's Independent Producers Initiative. This seven-year funding commitment by OMNI was initiated and made available for independent producers to create third-language/ethnocultural programming. The documentaries will be broadcast in their original language and transcreated into English as well as a range of other languages.

Rogers OMNI Television is a free over-the-air system consisting of four regional broadcasters covering nine markets in: British Columbia (Victoria, Vancouver, and Fraser Valley), Manitoba (Winnipeg), and Ontario (Ottawa-Gatineau, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and the Greater Toronto Area). All Rogers OMNI Television stations are owned and operated by Rogers Communications in the Rogers Media division, and have the collective mandate to reflect Canada's diversity through the airing of inclusive and accessible programming. In addition to specializing in Canadian multicultural, multilingual and multi-faith programming, OMNI TV also carries well-known American and International series and films.

OMNI.2 is currently available to subscribers of Rogers Digital Cable in HD on channel 509; across Canada to Starchoice subscribers on channel 395, and to ExpressVu subscribers on channel 216. LOOK carries OMNI.2 on channel 70 in Ontario. OMNI Plus On Demand will be available August 1st, 2006 exclusively on Rogers channel 600.

About the producers:
In addition to producing and hosting the weekly Somali language programme Muuqaalka Soomaalida on OMNI.2, Mohamed Dahir, Host/Associate Producer of Leopards in the Snow, hosts a weekly radio show on Toronto's CHIN-AM Radio which, similar to his television programme, connects the Somali community around the world, reports about the situation in Somalia and brings people up to date on important developments in the Somali Diaspora. Laura J. Forth, Writer/Director/Producer of Leopards in the Snow, has an award-winning background that spans various performance media and is renowned for writing, directing and producing issue-based, socially relevant material. Her plays have been produced at Theatre Passe Muraille, The Poor Alex and Buddies in Bad Times among others. James Aubrey Smith, Director/Producer of Leopards in the Snow, has been a member of the motion picture production community of over 20 years, and currently specializes in educational video productions. Leopards in the Snow is the latest collaboration with producer/partner Laura J. Forth.

To secure a screening copy of Leopards in the Snow, photos for print or to interview anyone associated with its production please contact:

OMNI Media Contact:
Sandy Zwyer - Programme Information Coordinator, (416) 260-3590
Andrea Gagliardi - Director, Public Relations, (416) 260-3803


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Laura Forth
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