Coffee & Allah
Coffee & Allah is a film about a young Muslim woman’s appetite for coffee, Islam and a good game of badminton. When Oromo Ethiopian Abeba Mohammed moves to suburban Mt Albert to unite with her sister under the refugee family reunion quota, she has nothing but her faith in Allah, a taste for Ethiopian coffee, and a zest for life to sustain her. From behind her purdah, and no knowledge of English, Abeba struggles to make a connection with the people of her new homeland. Nonu, a Samoan barrista at the local coffee shop takes a shine to her. But, the cultural chasm separating them seems unbridgeable until one afternoon, a spontaneous game of badminton with an unknown neighbour ultimately leads Abeba to accept Nonu’s gift of friendship.
Director’s Statement: Sima Urale
“On reading Coffee & Allah, I was immediately attracted to the main character Abeba, a Muslim Ethiopian woman, and her journey in a strange new land. Beingan immigrant myself, I could easily relate to the story. It was truly exciting to receive this script by Shuchi, because here was a story that was fresh, original, and focused on a new and growing ethnic minority in New Zealand.
The beauty of this script is that it begins with isolation and alienation, but as it progresses, subtle connections are slowly but surely made with Abeba and her new surroundings. For me, this is a gentle film with a strong message about acceptance. The challenge for me was how to visually convey a sense of disconnection without overstating the obvious. This inspired me to isolate the main character Abeba in many of her shots, and distance her with the use of wide lenses. In contrast, when we see her in her home environment with her daily ritual of making coffee and prayer, the shots are close and intimate.
It’s that contrast and change of perspective that I really want audiences to experience— to remind us of just how judgemental we can all be, and then suddenly be surprised by a personal view of a very human, sometimes funny, and very likeable character."