LOVE & LOSS ACROSS BORDERS

AN INTERVIEW WITH TROND WAAGE, DIRECTOR OF “LIVING WITH BOKO HARAM”

By Charlotte Harding

At the time “Living with Boko Haram” was filmed, the terrorist organisation was the deadliest in the world.

The militant group’s ideology of extremism has seen ensuing atrocities across ethnically and religiously divided Nigeria, spilling over into neighbouring Northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram’s fight to carve out an Islamic state inflicts a brutal toll. With regular suicide bombings and thousands of men disappearing, either recruited or killed; documenting such a dangerous situation was by no mean feat for anthropologists Trond Waage and Mouzamou Ahmadou.

“We just felt we needed to do something,” says Waage on the growing violent insurgency. “I just realised I had to document what was going on, and Mouzamou and I agreed that that was the most obvious thing we could do.”

Filmed over 6 months, the documentary follows the disappearance of Benjamin, his older brother Vakote and mother Antoinette’s desperate search for news of his whereabouts. Waage followed Vakote, living in Norway, whilst Ahmadou documented the events unfurling around Antoinette in his own homeland of Cameroon.

Speaking of the challenges they faced, Waage acknowledges the complexities of his protagonist’s lives, both at home and abroad. “Of course in Cameroon, it was risky, and because of the insecurity Mouzamou couldn’t travel much, he had to be home protecting his family,” he explains; “I have known Vakote for 20 years, and he represents one of the fastest growing social categories in Western Europe, migrants who come here and realise terrible things happen to their loved ones back at home. That is a very emotional thing, constantly afraid for what is happening with your mother an and your brother, so it was difficult in many ways.”

For Waage, although the messages of loneliness, fear and longing are important, what he hopes shines through in the film is the strength and love of the family bond. He also hopes to show that the conflict is not as simple as it is often portrayed. “We have this tendency to talk about Boko Haram as an evil ideological creation, but what we have seen in Cameroon is a young population who are more and more marginalised, upset by the way the nation is governed;
so, the ideology of Boko Haram has less to do with Islam, and more to do with luring in these impoverished, frustrated and disillusioned populations to join Boko Haram.”

LIVING WITH BOKO HARAM is screening at the RAI FILM FESTIVAL on Wednesday 29 March, 3:40 PM
Information and tickets here