Courtesy of Film Africa which is currently underway in London, running through the 11th, a documentary on the late Sudanese film-maker, and one of the founding fathers of African cinema, Gadalla Gubara (1920 – 2008) from filmmaker Frédérique Cifuentes, titled Cinema in Sudan: Conversations with Gadalla Gubara.
He was still working at the age of eighty-eight – one of the pioneers of cinema in Africa. He lost his sight at the age of 80, but still continued to film life in Sudan as no one before him. Through his oeuvre, Gadalla reveals to us a Sudan both mysterious and misunderstood. Despite censorship and lack of financial support over sixty years, he produced cinema that is independent and unique in a country where freedom of expression is a rare luxury. The film “Conversations with Gadalla Gubara” retraces the struggle of a man who received the 2006 Award for Excellence for his career at the Africa Academy Awards, Nigeria. The film shows a unique collection of archive footage and still photography from one of the founding fathers of African cinema. Gadalla was a person with a unique character: a Sudanese of great charm, caustic in his criticism of film-making, a humorist of refinement whose blindness had not tempered the rebel in him.
Some quick back-story…
Gadalla Gubara began his work as African cinema was emerging, a time of great optimism after independence from colonialism, a time when Sudan was producing its own films, when there were greater freedoms, before the horrors and struggles of Sudan today – or as some have said, his films captured the "Golden era of Sudan" when "Khartoum [Sudan] was the Beirut of Africa or … the Paris of Africa…"
In 1955, Gubara produced Africa’s first color film, Song of Khartoum – an 18-minute tribute to the capital and its modern nightlife.
He also created Sudan’s first movie studio – Studio Gad, in the mid-1970s, and in 1979, made Sudan’s first feature film, a romance titled Tajouj, which tells the story of a man who openly expresses his love for a woman (Tajouj) in a song. Because this gesture of love is prohibited by village custom, the man becomes a social outcast and is forbidden from marrying Tajouj. After repenting, the man is permitted to pursue Tajouj. A bitter rivalry soon develops between him and another man, who has also asked for Tajouj’s hand in marriage.
Gubara started making films in the 1940s with the colonial film unit on 35mm film, and his career spanned decades.
However, he is largely unknown and unaccounted for in the history of African cinema precisely because of the solitary determination of his pursuit as much as the lack of credible cultural support throughout the Sudan.
Coming up, expect much needed further posts on Gubara's life as a filmmaker, as well as profiles of his works.
Watch the trailer for Cinema in Sudan: Conversations with Gadalla Gubara below: