Somali American teen filmmakers Liban Barre and Ahmed Hassan started off small.
“We would take our parents’ phones and make videos because we weren’t allowed to have phones yet,” Hassan said.
Nearly five years later, the Renton duo have upgraded from flip phones to DSLR cameras. With the help of their friends, Barre and Hassan now produce videos that receive thousands of views on Barre’s Facebook page, which has almost 16,000 fans.
Both Barre, who’s now 18, and Hassan, 17, are sons of Somali immigrants, and their work reflects their cultural background.
“When I started off making videos, my audience was just Somali people,” Barre said.
He and his team produced several videos focused specifically on Somali family dynamics. Barre said that growing up as a Somali-American was not necessarily difficult, but his classmates often did not understand his culture. Many of the videos poke fun at the cultural gap between immigrant parents and their Americanized kids.
Barre and Hassan’s videos resonate with communities that are underrepresented in mainstream film and entertainment.
And they’re not all jokes. One of their most popular videos, “If you’re African, you’re not black?,” tackled the topic of black identities in America.
“‘Black’ is not just one-dimensional,” said a character played by Mohamed Abdi, a friend of Barre and Hassan. “You can be black Somali, black Dominican, black Ethiopian, and you’re still going to be counted as ‘black.’”
Hassan added that some viewers, after watching his videos, may assume that their parents are too strict.
“It’s not really like that,” Hassan said.
Hassan explained that he tries to please his parents because they immigrated to America so that he and his siblings could have opportunities. But despite the growing reach of their video venture, he doesn’t measure success by views, likes or shares.
“Success to me is me waving to my mom, and she’s smiling,” Hassan said.
About the #GreaterSeattle series: Political slogans about “making America great again” are stirring up racism and anti-immigrant sentiment around the country. But these young people are proof that our growing diversity is Seattle’s greatest strength.