On June 28 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the release of the Bluray “Eye in the Sky” starring the amazing cast of Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul and Jeremy Northam. Another cast member that brings this film into focus is Barkhad Abdi as Jama Farah.
Abdi was born in Mogadishu, Somalia but moved with his family to Yemen and finally Minneapolis, Minnesota by age of 14 escaping the civil war. In that comes a deep understanding of his character in the film.
The character of Farah is an agent working with the Kenyan government. In the film he is assigned to help Britain find the terrorist cell but Farah also has a role in what a moment of humanity tries to do in the middle of a difficult situation.
I had the opportunity to speak with Barkhad Abdi and hear of the role of Farah, his rise as an actor and a trip back home to Somalia.
Jeri Jackquin: Hello Barkhad, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
Barkhad Abdi: Hello Jeri, thank you too.
JJ: It’s nice to get the chance to talk to you.
BA: Thank you for having me.
JJ: I finished watching “Eye in the Sky.”
BA: How did you like it?
JJ: I think it was amazing. I loved your character so much. Tell me about him.
BA: The character is Jama Farah and he is working on the ground floor with the Kenyan government.
JJ: Your character got to show a real humanity in the middle of a pretty intense military situation.
BA: He wasn’t that big of a character in the film but he is important. The humanity part is because I can relate to the character. I was in a similar situation growing up I was in a war so I relate to the young girl on the street. It’s really different, the drone warfare is the modern warfare and it’s something that I personally didn’t know anything about until the movie. This movie shows a lot of details about modern warfare.
JJ: How did it affect you reading the script?
BA: I liked the script a lot and it was one of those scripts that had a great director, Gavin Hood and he is the one that gave me the part. Also, Alan Rickman being a part of the film was very special.
JJ: Your acting career is like a Hollywood Cinderella story, this wasn’t what you had planned initially was it?
BA: It wasn’t but I love filmmaking and when parts came out I had to do it. When I read this part I got a chance to become an agent, when I watched movies and saw parts like that it made me excited to be doing it myself.
JJ: Of course you were amazing in “Captain Phillips.”
BA: Thank you.
JJ: In “Eye in the Sky” you are on the other side of the script — helping people.
BA: Yes, to me if I can understand the role and I can understand the person, the character and the mindset of why he is doing what he is doing then I can do the part. Jama is an agent trying to do his job, those people; they exist in real life and put their lives in front to save other people. I’m really proud to highlight those people who do that, risking their lives for other people.
JJ: Your character makes warfare very personal.
BA: I was trying to my best and I have to thank the director, Gavin Hood, for showing me the direction and what I needed to do.
JJ: Did you not realize the effect your character would have on people?
BA: I did not honestly. When I watched it I liked it a lot but no, can you tell me?
JJ: Yes, I can. Of course your character is on a very important mission but also gave off such empathy. There is that split second on your face where deciding whether to keep on the mission or remember that you are also a human being. There is that moment where you decide you can do both. When you made that decision to go, everything became more humanized.
BA: Thank you so much! To me it was a very different movie. These are real things that are happening in Kenya and Somalia. There are people who actually save people from horrible situations, people that aren’t talked about. They use their own lives to save others. When I think about those situations and thank goodness my work came out well.
JJ: I see you keep busy working on other things.
BA: Yes, I have a part in The Brothers Grimsby playing Tabansi Nyagura and I have another film called “Extortion” playing Miguel Kaba that just did a screening at Cannes. I also just finished a film in South Africa called “Where the White Man Runs Away” with Al Pacino and Evan Peters.
JJ: I am excited to see that one.
BA: It’s really good. We thought it was very funny.
JJ: Have you had a chance in between acting to return home to Somalia?
BA: I did actually. I went there last year with ADESO, a human rights organization and visited parts of Somalia where they are doing good work. We also went to where fishing use to happen and there is still no fishing and a lot of fisherman have turned to farming. It was very exciting to go there.
JJ: Did it look at all the same as you remembered?
BA: I left there when I was seven years old but over all there is still hope and progress happening. There is hope and life and people trying to live.
JJ: It’s great that you got to return home and help, that’s important.
BA: Yes, it is. Hopefully I will be able to do more but this is a start.
JJ: People who are going to see “Eye in the Sky,” what would you like them to take away from the film?
BA: “Eye in the Sky” is very deep and war is never good. There needs to be an understanding about drones by who ever is in power. The election is here and it is important to know who is going to be controlling the drones and the idea of modern warfare. People need to understand how it all works.
JJ: Who is controlling them and why?
JJ: Thank you for taking the time for talking with me today. I think you have done fantastic things and I can’t wait to see what you will do in the future.
BA: Thank you very much Jeri.
Barkhad Abdi’s voice gives off such a humbleness when speaking about being an actor and hoping to do more with ADESO that it makes me appreciate him even more. “Eye in the Sky” is a film that will have people discussing the characters and the story that is a debate we all will be having as modern warfare continues to exist. But in the middle of that is the glimmer of humanity that decides to jump in and make an impact, and that is what Barkhad’s role is all about.
He gives this role a very personal piece of himself and that, my friends, is what damn fine acting is all about!
“Eye in the Sky” is available June 28 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment — watch and let the discussions begin.