Somali rapper/poet K’naan has teamed up with HBO and director Kathryn Bigelow for a drama series titled "The Recruiters," which K’naan will write, direct and executive produce.
The very timely series will be set in Minnesota, and "will draw open an iron curtain behind which viewers will see the highly impenetrable world of Jihadi recruitment," according to THR.
For those unaware, a significant number of Somali immigrants in the USA are settled in Minnesota, which, according to the Immigration Policy Center, has been home to the largest population of Somalis in North America since around 2012. The city of Minneapolis in particular hosts hundreds of Somali-owned and operated commercial ventures. Current estimates say that about one third of Somali Americans live in Minnesota.
Federal and Minnesota authorities have long struggled with the problem of Somali Americans leaving to join al-Shabab, with Islamic State becoming another destination for terrorist sympathizers in recent years.
In fact, just this week, Federal agents in Minneapolis arrested a 20-year-old Somali man, who they say was the “emir” – or leader – of Islamic State recruiting efforts in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame of Eagan, Minnesota appeared in the US District Court in Minneapolis on Thursday morning, to answer the charges of supplying material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. He was arrested without incident on Wednesday evening, the FBI said. The criminal complaint against Warsame, signed by FBI Special Agent Vadim Vinetsky, says that a group of at least ten young Somalis from Minnesota began conspiring to join Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in the spring of 2014. One member of the group, 18-year-old Abdi Nir, actually managed to get to Syria in May 2014, while nine others have been arrested by the FBI.
So, like I said, certainly a timely drama series for HBO to consider; and given that it’s coming from K’naan (a Muslim of Somali ancestry, with deep connections to his community, and who has seen childhood friends lost), I’d assume that audiences will get a more comprehensive, if personal look at this particular struggle.
Kathryn Bigelow (who tackled the so-called "war on terror" telling the story of "history’s greatest manhunt for the world’s most dangerous man" in the critically-acclaimed 2012 drama-thriller "Zero Dark Thirty") and Carolyn Strauss will executive produce the project which is still in early stages of development.
Earlier this year, K’naan was a 2015 Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Award winner, a program designed to identify and support emerging independent filmmakers from around the world. He’s also an alumnus of the Institute’s Screenwriters and Directors Labs.
K’naan’s project, for which he won a Global Filmmaking Award, which he will direct (it was to be his directorial debut), is titled "The Poet."
Logline reads: "In war-torn Somalia, an artistic orphan named Maano undertakes a dangerous journey to Mogadishu in order to find his long-lost sister."
No word on where that project stands. I’d assume fundraising is a struggle, as he shifts to TV for "The Recruiters." Bigelow’s support should help push it through.