Finnish-Somalian filmmaker Khadar Ayderus Ahmed – whose debut feature “The Gravedigger’s Wife” played in Critics’ Week at Cannes – is at the Red Sea Film Festival to premiere his short film “Night Stop,” but is also keen to talk to Variety about his next feature: a comedy to be shot in Africa with an African cast. “It’s a social film, but told through comedy this time,” he says. “A little bit on a tangent compared to my earlier film, because I love stories and using different genres to develop my themes.”

That urge to explore genre cinema was in evidence in “Night Stop,” which tells the story of a young man (Miguel Peltomaa) who encounters a series of mysterious strangers after his bicycle breaks down one evening. “It is a story about multiple marginalized identities. It’s a genre film, but this story deals with youth mental health issues affecting Europe as well.”

“The Gravedigger’s Wife” Courtesy of Orange Studio

Following several shorts including “Yovaras” (2017) and “The Killing of Cahceravga” (2019), Ahmed broke out into the international scene with “The Gravedigger’s Wife” in 2021. After competing in the Critics’ Week sidebar of Cannes, it was screened at the inaugural edition of the Red Sea Film Festival last year.

Ahmed says the new film will film in a tropical African island, with Zanzibar or Mombasa, likely options. “It’s a very African tale,” Ahmed comments. “It combines mythology with comedy. It’s about this woman who left her village at a very young age. The village is run by men. And so she decides to really turn the system upside down to make things better for women. It’s about female empowerment and inclusiveness. It’s political and also like a fairytale.”

The two leads are likely to be well-known French actors. “The discussion is still going on, but I really love working with local actors. Wherever we decide to shoot, there will be organized a casting session for the local people, in order to make the story more authentic. Like my previous film, only the two lead actors were from the West and everyone else was from Djibouti, so I want to do the same thing with only maybe one or two actors from outside the location.”

The film is expected to begin filming in the second half of 2023.