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An Independent Film Festival is Born in Sudan – January 21-27

An Independent Film Festival is Born in Sudan - January 21-27

Organized by Sudan Film Factory, the Sudan Independent Film Festival (SIFF) returns for a second year, later this month, with films from various countries screened in 4 locations across the capital Khartoum. 

6 years after the death of late Sudanese filmmaker, and one of the founding fathers of African cinema, Gadalla Gubara (1920 – 2008), came the first annual Sudan Independent Film Festival (SIFF), which kicked off its inaugural edition a year ago, 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, with this year-old film festival, films about Sudanese life made by Sudanese filmmakers will be shown 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 second annual festival kicks off on January 21, and will run through January 27.

I don’t have the lineup for this year yet, but I should soon, and will share here.

Last year, 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 over the years. SIFF also confirmed scriptwriter Sayed Fouad, President of Luxor African Film Festival (LAFF) as honorary guest the first edition. 

The festival kicked off with a concert by Egyptian artist Dina El Wadidy and a screening of “Faisal Goes West” – a 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.

Here’s a teaser for the upcoming event:

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