The story behind „Unrecognized“

The „adventure Somaliland“ started in December 2017: A private investor was looking for a film crew, crazy enough to leave everything behind and get on it’s way to Africa to shoot a documentary feature. We were crazy enough, obviously, and started this unlikely journey.

In the beginning there were still many doubts, then first meetings with the film producer. A common ground was found quickly, the passion for the project was obvious, and we „caught fire“. We – that were in the beginning first of all our director Marlene Mayer and cinematographer Laurenz Korber. In the nutshell: The project „Unrecognized“ was born.

director Marlene Mayer and Laurenz Korber

We, as maybe most people, had not heard of Somaliland before. „Somaliland“ sounds very much like „Somalia“, and if you think of Somalia you usually think of war, terror, and piracy. A short Google-research corrected this wrong assessment, an extensive research troughout the whole year 2018 brought up loads of interesting material: Scientific texts and books, long interviews and coversations with experts (mostly anthropologists) and even the participation in a Somali-conference at the Max Plank Institute completed the impression of an extremely intereszing region that was to be explored.

Still, the first actual trip to Somaliland in February was a trip into the unknown: There was just 1 month for all kinds of preparations, security checks, visa-applications and necessary injections. When we finally arrived in this unknown country, the stress was replaced by a growing fascination, while hundreds of questions came up. The team consisted of 10 people back then: 2 policemen, 2 translators, 2 drivers, a journalist, the producer, cinematographer Laurenz Korber and director Marlene Mayer. The trips from the capitol Hargeisa through the country, through mountains and villages, small and bigger cities exposed a fascinating country full of controversies and contradictions, a mixture between modernity and tradition.

Back in Vienna we continued with and intensified the research process. We stayed in touch with our contact persons back in Somaliland and and tried to get interviews with possible protagonists of out film, prepared interview questions and a dramaturgical concept. In Juli we started our second trip to Somaliland. While the first one was designed as a „research trip“, the sesond one was about shooting the film material. When we were already there, deep in process, the producer suddenly decided to fly back to Austria and leave the project. Nevertheless, Marlene and Laurenz decided to stay in Somaliland and finsish the shooting process: The film concept was adapted, the Somaliland government supported us and provided a car, a driver and policemen, and so we could finish the shoot under difficult conditions.

Difficult negotiations with the former producer awaited us back in Vienna, circulating around the question concerning the film rights. In the end, a solution could be found: The rights for the whole material went to director Marlene Mayer.

Still, for a few months, the whole material was left in the drawer, because the experiences in Somaliland and especially the departure of the producer required to gain a certain distance first. In the end of 2018, Marlene made another attempt to find new supporters for the project, a new producer who should help to bring the manifold material into a final form. An informal meeting of the Viennese film branche led to the first decision: Film critic Christian Klosz ( got on board as partner and co-producer.

In the last 6 months, a detailled plan for the post-production process was made, a financial calculation, a first crowdfunding campaign was conducted, and the post-production team was compiled. In addition, 2 weeks ago we submitted our funding application to the city of Vienna, which we hope to be accepted, so that we can ensure a fair payment of all our collegues. As you can see: Everything is on it’s way, and we hope to be able to finish our film til the end of the year! Stay tuned.

(text: Christian Klosz)

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