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The movies where police join in as extras

The movies where police join in as extras

A group of film-makers and stuntmen is hoping to turn the breakaway territory of Somaliland into the next Hollywood. Undeterred by a shortage of cash, they turn to the local police for help when they need props and extras.

It's the middle of nowhere and cars are pursuing each other in tighter and tighter circles, sending thick clouds of dust into the hot air. It is a truly spectacular chase.

In the Amazing Technology Group's tiny one-roomed office in the capital Hargeisa, a giant Hollywood-style movie poster takes up a whole wall. The group's chairman (and director, producer and cameraman), Ibrahim Mohamed, sits behind the desk.

"We have to make do with whatever we have," says vice chairman and main actor, Hersi Abdirizak. "We don't have the money for costumes, so we borrow clothes from our friends. For pistols, we buy plastic guns in toy shops and paint them black. Our friends in the police lend us the knives, axes and machetes."

On set for their latest film, the gun they use is a real AK47. It too comes from a friend in the police. "I hope it's not loaded," says Adam Konvict, a local rap artist who, together with an off-duty policeman, is helping out as an extra.

The company relies a lot on the generosity of others. In its new action movie - a Somali take on cops and robbers - some of the actors are on loan from the Somaliland circus troupe, performing incredible acrobatics as they race through the city streets.

What the ATG lacks in resources is more than made up for in imagination and get-up-and-go attitude. This group of seven young men aimed high, right from the start. While still in their teens at university, they made their first movie. It wasn't a short, student-style video but a full-length action film. With romance, violence, an evil gangster and thrilling car chases, The Lost Diamond proved a huge hit when it was shown on local television.

The dynamic and daring spirit of these young men is typical of Somalilanders. One man is blasting a road through the mountains to the sea. A woman has converted her house into a luxury restaurant, where diners sit under the stars on the rooftop. A businessman talks of bringing in a funfair. There is an annual book festival.

There is not much for people to do here, especially the young. This is an area where Al Qaeda-linked militants are active in Somalia to the south and a short boat ride away in Yemen.

But that stunt man with the cool hairdo is quite the heart-throb of Hargeisa. I discovered this after the ATG posted photos of our meeting on Facebook. Lots of young Somali girls came to me in great excitement when they realised I might be able to introduce them to their idols. Most of them asked for "the one with the Afro". And when he agreed to pose for selfies, they positively swooned.

BBC News 

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