Genre: Crime Drama
Year Released: 2009
Distributor: Rod Betong Productions
Running Time: 18 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: August the First, Crash, Glassland
Notes: This film is streaming on YouTube.
-This is the directorial debut of Ahmed Abdullahi. He’s also directed films such as Salaam, I Am Dublin, and Proposition. He was the director, editor, writer, and an actor who played the title character.
-Farax was filmed with only $150.
My quest to search for African cinema continues even though I would deal with a co-production with a European nation. Sure, this wouldn’t be the first time this would happen since I’ve also covered other films in similar situations like Dreams of Dust (Burkina Faso/France/Canada) or Black Gold (UK/Ethiopia), but this time I’m dealing with a movie sharing an origin with Sweden even though it involves a Somali director.
How does this short Somali/Swedish film fare?
Farax is about a man of the same name who’s a Somali immigrant living in Stockholm. Him and his family live in Sweden’s capital, but Farax has his own issues. He struggles with an addiction to chat (or khat, either spelling is acceptable) and it doesn’t help that other people in the Somali community in Sweden have been pushing that on him to the point where he can barely afford groceries for his wife and children. Farax wants to come clean, get some bananas and milk (per request from his wife), but he gets tangled up when the grocery store owner wants him to come to his party where that narcotic plant is going to be in use.
This was a dark entry into cinema from the Horn of Africa. Despite how low the budget was, it looked surprisingly good. The coloration works well with the tone of the scene and I liked some of the fast editing in the grocery store while the editing gets slower during the party which can reflect the druggy nature of that scene. There’s definitely a good amount of internal conflict with the Farax character as he struggles with this drug addiction while also wanting to provide for his family even while showing up at the party. It does show how chat can tear apart a family’s life. You might remember me talking about that drug in my Black Gold review, but for those who don’t know what it is, that’s an illegal narcotic plant that gets people high while they chew on it. The party scene gets quite disturbing as so many men just sit around and joking white being higher than kites. The looming dark nature even shows up with Farax’s wife who sings to their baby almost mournfully waiting for her husband. Despite not showing up in many scenes, she leaves a huge impact for the viewer all throughout the film.
Farax has some noticeable faults though. For starters, there were subtitle typos in certain parts which turned me off a bit, but that’s the least of my qualms with that short film. I do know that chat is a major issue in some African countries as some people have been trapping with those narco pieces of botany, but a movie like this could add to a stereotype of Black people are drug-losers. Seriously, if they were smoking marijuana instead of chewing chat, then everyone would call it a racist movie. Conversely, if this took place in rural America or a small city (think Huntington, WV like the doc Heroin(e)) and there were only White people getting strung out on opioids, then they would call it reverse racism (even though that concept doesn’t exit, but that’s a story for another day). It does give a flaw to the Farax character, but I felt that it could have some unfortunate implications especially with the ending. One could call it a cautionary tale, but how it’s presented could be ammunition for any bigot around.
Farax was an average attempt at tackling a serious issue in film. The cinematography works quite well. The tonality also works given the somber and morose nature given the subject matter. I do fear that a short film like this could add to a stereotype to the Somali community let alone anyone of the African diaspora given how drugs play a huge role in the plot and with Farax’s character development. Farax could’ve been a much better short film, but I couldn’t ignore it’s faults.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you like darker movies.
Subtract 1-2 points if drug crimes make you uncomfortable in film.
-Good cinematography and visuals
-Decent soundtrack and sound design
-Shows the crippling nature of the chat drug
-Reinforces negative stereotypes against Black men
-Can be too depressing
Final Score: 5/10 points
Content Warning: Farax is suitable for older audiences only. Chat plays a huge role as Farax buys some and how some other Somalis get extremely high at the party. There’s strong language and sexual innuendo mentioned in some conversations.
All photos used under US “Fair Use” laws. Farax is property of Ahmed Abdullahi and Rod Betong Productions. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Rod Betong Productions.