Djibouti Diaries, part #2: Summing up the experience

Irregular blog series of Iiris’ thoughts and travels in Djibouti filming upcoming feature “The Grave Digger” by Bufo, Pyramide Production and Twenty Twenty Vision.

Report summing up the experience, put together here and there during the production on location

Very happy I brought:

– good flip flops (ready to be ruined in sand, dirt etc.)

– Water bottle with strap to attach it to my bag / belt

– Scarf to protect my head from sun and heat

– Paper and pens to make notes

– Book(s) to read when wifi isn’t working

I wish I’d taken:

– more clothes I do not want to bring back to Finland but to give to Djiboutian people who might enjoy them

– Some warm weather clothes to wear when NOT at work (literally off to a romantic holiday with my ARRI CREW shirts)

Was the most worried of:

– How the crew stands the weather

– How I stand the weather (and having monthly periods in here, which already in Finland, is a struggle, thank you evolution)

– How are we going to get all the shots done with only 23 shooting days

– How hard will it be for me and Paula to adapt to and survive having inexperienced locations team and 3rd AD + Paula taking care of daily logistics too

Was most excited of:

– how incredibly beautiful many of our sets are

– How honestly I think the script is outstanding and we’ve been given the chance to make it come true

– How hopefully we’ll bring more skills to our local crew members and maybe new dreams to little kids watching our work

– Having a proper holiday after this

Realised during the filming process:

– No need to worry of how we get the shots made: we can do it

– Weather got easier by the day, and very soon after the first weeks I didn’t care at all of getting sweaty, not wearing make up and looking like I didn’t care of my looks much (well, I didn’t, and it probably showed)

– Needs adapt to the resources quite well when having the right people on board (for example crafts table was something you’d never accept on western countries and in here we were more or less ok with it most of the time)

– Love and care are always unconditional even on extreme conditions (I’ll hold hands of the street kids, let them climb to my lap and feed and pet street dogs even though I know how diseases spread and see how they are living)

– As always it’s not the destination but the journey and sometimes it’s most of all how you react to it and learn from it

– Though locals skills and professionalism was far from what I’d usually hope for many became as important part of the crew as any hard core professional would have

– Bringing hope gets a new meaning in a 3rd world country

– very personal: I’ve got so much debt to the world of being this lucky by starting my life as a middle-class finn and I just hope one day I’ve done enough to pay back

– Also quite personal: do not really feel like having a holiday

Will miss the most / loved the most:

– Location Manager Hamadou and our music parties

– translator Ouma’s tea (with somali spices)

– Weekend breakfasts with Antti (and Grand Designs marathons too!)

– Mine and Otto’s gym visits

– Ethiopian vegan food and Ambo sparkling water

– Production cars named according to animals (”please move MONGOOSE, TIGER and GIRAFFE to the set please”) – genious idea by Paula of course

– main child actor ”Petit Khader” and his incredible smile

– Overall positive hassle: everyone helping each other, hugging each other, not having too much of pride on who should do what kind of assignments

– Good things that come from people expressing themselves openly

– Seeing and understanding how happy and satisfied it is possible to be with so little

– Having animals (goats, cats, dogs, camels…) all around the city

– Children’s curiosity

– Incredibly supportive Producer Mark (helping us out all the way from Finland)

ROUTINE I had daily, so precious to anyone who’s usually missing one

Disliked the most:

– African way of experiencing time (no surprise to anyone having an AD saying this!)

– Not having tofu and other vegetable proteins available (and very poor catering food)

– Battling with very different understandings of work ethics

– Locals never really understanding the division of work and hierarchy on film production

– Everyone having an opinion on everything and leaving their work to argue about it (even though it has nothing to do with them usually)

– Not being sure what is appropriate and what’s not (for example: when is it ok to tell people they cannot take 20 minutes to pray right now)

– Not being able to dress freely (being a feminist this is a difficult one)

– Not speaking french properly


– more African films / co-productions with African countries / anything filmed on African continent

– Films done on countries where there isn’t yet an established film industry – YES it’s difficult, but with patience it can also be very eye-opening and take any professionals work to another level

– Any volunteering work I could do in countries like Djibouti when not working on films


– travelling with this much luggage (well, feels like it now)

– Ever again spending and consuming like I’ve used to (this was one of my personal main goals after being very self-consious of scandinavian lifestyle and trying my hardest to change my carbon footprint over the last couple years)

– Working on productions with too little people on production and locations team

– Ever buying bottled water in Finland (how much I’ve missed being able to drink tap water!!!)

With many warm (and funny) memories, missing the DJI family and even feeling nostalgic of the weather.

– Iiris