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Film Honours Ethiopia Famine Cameraman


Mohamed Amin - The man who shocked the worldThe Kenyan cameraman whose footage of starving Ethiopians in 1984 provoked the most famous global aid response in history has been honoured in a documentary to go on public release next month.


Mohamed Amin was known for always juggling several cameras at onceMo & Me follows the extraordinary life of journalist Mohamed Amin from his first big scoop - uncovering Soviet military activity in Zanzibar - to his death arguing with hijackers as their plane plunged into the sea off the Comoros islands.

"It's my journey back into his life -- the man I idolized but hardly knew," said his son Salim Amin, 35., who narrates the 95-minute film.

The documentary has already picked up an award in Los Angeles for best international documentary. It goes to another film festival in New York on May 9, then premieres to the public in Amin's birthplace Nairobi on May 17.

Amin is best known round the world for his apocalyptic pictures of tens of thousands of hungry and dying Ethiopians huddled together on the cold plains of Korem two decades' ago. His close-ups of the victims' expressions and eyes remain among the most moving images of the 20th century.

Mo's images and Michael Buerk's words alerted the world to "A plague of biblical proportions"Broadcast on the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to narration by Michael Buerk, the footage shocked the world and eventually inspired the "Live Aid" concerts and aid movement fronted by Irish rocker Bob Geldorf.

"In his life, as in his death, my father was determined to show the world things that some were afraid to see and others wished they could ignore," Salim Amin said.


A joint production between Al Jazeera International and the firm Salim Amin inherited from his father -- Camerapix -- "Mo & Me" is directed by Roger Mills who helped make the British series "Around the World in 80 Days."

Born into a poor Kenyan family who had arrived from India to help build railways in what the was a British colony, Amin started work in Tanzania and suffered 28 days' jail and torture for his first story on Soviet influence in the Zanzibar islands.

A workaholic -- and a tetchy and domineering one at that -- Amin was back on the job just two hours after marrying and often left his family for long periods, but made sure his eager son kept at a desk job rather than go out into the field.


He was famous for wielding a clutch of different cameras, stills and video, at the same time.

Even after losing his arm in an explosion in Ethiopia in 1991, Amin carried on filming with an artificial limb.

When he died, on a plane that was hijacked after leaving Addis Ababa and crash-landed in the sea off the Comoros after running out of fuel in 1996, survivors say he was negotiating and arguing with the hijackers up until the end.

Other great scoops by Mohamed Amin included images of the death-throes of assassinated Kenyan trade unionist and politician Tom Mboya in 1969.

Mohamed Amin's friendship with Uganda's Idi Amin led to some remarkable images of the quirky dictator and his bloody rule. One shot shows Idi Amin held aloft on a dais by ex-patriates in Kampala, while others capture the executions of his victims.