6 years after the death of late Sudanese filmmaker, and one of the founding fathers of African cinema, Gadalla Gubara (1920 – 2008), comes the first annual Sudan Independent Film Festival (SIFF), which kicks off its inaugural edition today January 21, 2014, in Khartoum.
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/splits of Sudan today (South Sudan, which officially became an independent state in 2011 – although there’s a long history, going back to the 1950s, and the first Sudanese Civil War) – or as some have said, his films captured the “Golden era of Sudan” when “Khartoum 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.
Did I mention that he lost his sight at the age of 80, but still continued to film life in Sudan, as no one before him.
Sudan was once at the cutting edge of filmmaking in Africa, making some of the continent’s best-known films in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. And it’s very exciting that, starting this week, films about Sudanese life made by Sudanese filmmakers are being showing in Sudan.
The Sudan Independent Film Festival was founded by the Sudan Film Factory, which aims to build the capacities of young Sudanese talents, producing films “made in Sudan,” and exposing films to Sudanese audiences.
The organizers of the festival announced Egypt as Guest of Honor of the first edition for that country’s significant contribution to continental African cinema. SIFF also confirmed scriptwriter Sayed Fouad, President of Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF) as honorary guest the first edition.
“I am extremely happy because of the launching of SIFF for the importance of such activities in the development of cinema and the communion between African people”, said Fouad.
The festival kicks off tonight with a concert by Egyptian artist Dina El Wadidy and a screening of Faisal Goes West – director Bentley Brown’s indie comedy/drama about a Sudanese man working in a Texas chicken farm, telling a larger story about how he and his family adjust to life in the USA.
Below is a trailer for the inaugural Sudan Independent Film Festival (SIFF):