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Surviving Boko Haram

A rare subject, which shows the absurdities of a never-ending war, of a seemingly hopeless situation, only worsened by the government's desire to close the refugee camps. The pandemic and the volatile safety situation forced the production team to reinvent its way of working, with two co-authors in France and a third in Nigeria following the filming in real time. The filming took place over several weeks in order to take the time to get to know our characters. All this amid dangerous instability: Maiduguri, the regional capital of Borno, was hit by an attack just two days after the crew left.

A film written by Pierre-Olivier François, Moïse Gomis and Yann Ollivier.

Directed by Pierre-Olivier François, Moïse Gomis.

Produced by FACTSTORY, ARTE GEIE, France Médias Monde, with the support of the CNC.

In production from January to April 2021, in Borno

Camera: Fati Abubakar

Translation : Hamza Suleiman

Editing: Julia Saccani

Colour grading: David Chantoiseau

Sound mixing: Régis Diebold


Fatima, 26, was forcibly married to a Boko Haram commander under threats that her son would otherwise be turned into a child soldier, by the Islamist sect. She did so to prevent her son's fate. But since then, her family has rejected her and called her a "Boko Haram wife". Falmata, 50, had a price on her head from Boko Haram because she was a businesswoman. She barely survived, but lost everything in her town, Bama, and does not know how to feed the eight children who depend on her. 70-year-old farmer Mala meanwhile survived a massacre but has not dared return to the fields.

Borno State in north-eastern Nigeria and neighbouring countries have been torn apart by the Islamist insurgency for more than a decade. These portraits of displaced people are exceptional, as no Western camera had visited the martyred town of Bama since Boko Haram established its short-lived caliphate in 2014. Liberated after seven months, Bama now looks like an entrenched camp. The schools, once attacked by the insurgents, are registering new pupils every day. But the countryside remains subject to racketeering and attacks by the Islamists.

Preparations: December 2020 - January 2021 - end of filming in April 2021, delivery of the Ready to Broadcast (RTB) in May 2021.


Due to the pandemic, a special team was put in place for this project: two co-authors/directors in France and a director in the field, accompanied by a camerawoman and a stringer during the pre-productions and filming. We conducted pre-interviews with specialists in the region, including researchers, and enlisted a team of four translators in Nigeria.


Throughout the filming and preparations, the team in France kept in touch via WhatsApp with the team in the field: giving filming directions and advising on who to interview and which sequences to film. Regular updates were also made with the editors-in-chief of the two programmes at Arte and France 24.


A whole security protocol for the journalists was set up and all the procedures for monitoring teams in a war zone were followed. Post-production was carried out in France, the editing was done by the two French co-directors. Interview dubbing and voice over recording were done in a sound studio for the English and French versions.

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