By: Laurie Mccllelan
somalilandsun- Somaliland may be an entire continent away, but it has a local connection in Ben Powell. The Falls Church-based cinematographer recently traveled to the autonomous North African territory—a self-declared state in the northern part of Somalia—to co-direct the documentary Somaliland with his college friend Harry Lee.
The idea for the film, which follows five students from the desert region as they pursue their dream of attending college in the U.S., first arose when Lee was teaching overseas at the Abaarso School of Science and Technology in the capital city of Hargeisa. Upon his return to the States, Lee brought the idea to Powell, who runs Powell Media Concepts, a boutique production company in Falls Church.
It helped that the co-directors already had contacts in the place for which the documentary is named. “Everywhere we went, we got to stay on friends’ couches,” Lee says.
Call it a search for common ground. “When you’re seeing someone else’s real life, you’re better able to understand them,” Powell says. Filmed on a shoestring budget, Somaliland got a recent boost from a Kickstarter campaign that raised the remaining $35,000 needed to complete it.
The filmmakers are aiming to wrap up production this summer. somaliland.hapa-productions.com