Abdisalam Aato

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Abdisalam Aato
عبد السلام عاتو
Abdisalam Aato.jpg
Born1976 (age 43–44)
OccupationFilm director, producer, entrepreneur, media consultant
Years active2000s–present

Abdisalam Aato (Somali: Cabdisalaan Caato; Arabic: عبد السلام عاتو‎) (born 1976) is a Somali-American film director, producer, entrepreneur and media consultant.[1] He is the founder of Olol Films, a production company at the forefront of the Somaliwood movement within the Somali film industry.

Personal life[edit]

Aato was born in the '70s in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.[2] After the civil war broke out in the early 1990s, he fled to Kenya in 1993, where he lived in a refugee camp near Mombasa for over three years.[3][1]

In 1996, Aato traveled to the United States at the invitation of his brother.[2][3] He initially resettled in Atlanta, Georgia with his entire family, prior to his father's death. In 2001, he relocated to Columbus, Ohio, a prominent center for the Somali diaspora, where he is currently based.[3][1]

Aato is married. He describes his wife as his driving inspiration.[2]


While in Georgia, Aato began his professional career as a broadcaster and radio announcer at a community television station, Media One. He would write screenplays a minute at a time, subsequently moving on to scripting full-length feature films.[2] With his experience learning film production at Media One, Aato later founded Olol Films, a Columbus-based production company that is at the forefront of the Somaliwood movement within the Somali film industry.[3][1]

In 2003, he released Rajo ("Hope"), his first feature-length Somali film. It is a semi-autobiographical action drama about a young Somali refugee.[1] The movie was a relatively large production, with a helicopter and luxury vehicles hired for the purpose. It premiered to full houses on Thanksgiving at Studio 35 and a Minneapolis theater.[2] It is It has since become recognized as the first film in the Somaliwood movement and made Columbus the center of Somali diasporic film production.[1] The film marked the beginning of a new wave of Somali films in the 2000s; these films were written, directed and produced by Somali emigres outside Somalia.[1]

As of 2007, Aato has produced, written and directed nine feature films and documentaries in his Cleveland Avenue studio. Two other productions were also in development.[3] He works closely with his wife on all of his film projects, wherein she provides consultation and advice on areas in need of improvement.[2]

Additionally, Aato launched Bartamaha, a multimedia website dedicated to Somali music, short films, news and culture.[3] He likewise hosts the weekly television and online program the Wargelin Show, which focuses on Somali politics and society.[4] As of 2013, Aato also serves as a Senior Media Advisor to the Federal Government of Somalia.[5]


  • Rajo (2003)
  • Xaaskayga Araweelo (2006)
  • Ambad (2011)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bick, Tenley (March 4, 2019). "What Goes Around Comes Around". Third Text. 33 (2): 153–177. doi:10.1080/09528822.2019.1599577. ISSN 0952-8822.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Mbatiah, Suleiman (April 4, 2011). "On a Mission to Market Somaliwood". On Islam. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Somaliwood: Columbus Has Become A Haven for Somali Filmmaking". The Other Paper. April 19, 2007. Retrieved January 25, 2008.
  4. ^ "Wargelin Show". Bartamaha. Retrieved October 18, 2014.
  5. ^ "Abdisalam Aato". Retrieved May 18, 2013.