Directed by South Korean Ryoo Seung-wan, Escape from Mogadishu is based on real events of 1991 when North Korean and South Korean embassy workers and their families, trapped and stranded in the civil war, unexpectedly unite despite their countries’ differences to make a dangerous attempt to escape the city.

“This is a story about humanity—living against adversity,” Peter Kawa, who plays the role of a police officer called Khalil in the film, tells Quartz. He is one of six Kenyan actors in the film.

Escape from Mogadishu was entirely shot in Morocco in 2019 and it was released in South Korea on July 28 of this year. It stars the South Koreans Kim Yoon-seok, Jo In-sung, Heo Joon-ho and Kim So-jin.

Escape from Mogadishu is one of many films related to the Somali civil war, including the 2001 Hollywood movie Black Hawk Dawn by director Ridley Scott.

The Somali civil war started in 1988, with the country’s military forces fighting against different rebel groups who were opposing president Mohamed Siad Barre’s dictatorship. Barre was eventually overthrown by opposition groups in 1991.

South Korea had sent diplomats to Somalia in 1987, the same year the two established diplomatic ties, to earn the support of African members of the United Nations as part of its efforts to be admitted to the global body. North Korea and Somalia had established diplomatic relations earlier, in 1967.

A poster of the 'Escape from Mogadishu' film.
Seeking safety.
Image: Well Go USA Inc.

North Korea and South Korea have had a tense relationship for decades as both claim to be the legitimate government of the entire Korean Peninsula, which the US and the Soviet Union divided in 1945. But in Escape from Mogadishu, this rivalry takes a back seat as their citizens work towards a common goal.

“However much people do not agree according to country,” Kawa says, “when it comes now not to saving lives, they get to work together and they remind themselves that they’re all they have—each other.”

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech, and innovation in your inbox.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.