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Meet the Sudanese Filmmakers making International Headlines

The year 2019 has been monumental for Sudan and its people with a revolution that led to the fall of former Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, and is bringing about positive change in the country.

It has been the year for Sudanese cinema with at least three Sudanese films – produced by Sudanese filmmakers – premiering and receiving prestigious awards at some of the world’s most acclaimed film festivals including the Venice Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Here are five filmmakers who have been recently making international headlines for their outstanding films and documentaries:

Amjad Abu Alala

Image source: Amjad Abu Alala

Amjad Abu Alala is an award-winning filmmaker, director and screenwriter who was born and raised in the UAE. He graduated in 2004 with a bachelor degree in media from United Arab Emirates University (UAEU). He produced many short films that can be accessed on his Vimeo. He has directed many short films that were presented at film festivals, including Coffee and Oranges (2004),  Feathers of the Bird (2005)Train Station Studio (2015) and award-winning Tina (2009). Most recently in 2019, Abu Alala made headlines for his award-winning film, You Will Die at 20. Previously, Abu Alala worked for Rahbani Production, Ashrooq TV and Twofour54. In addition, he is the Head of Programming Committee of the Sudan Independent Film Festival (SIFF). He is currently based between the UAE, Qatar, Sudan and Egypt – wherever film takes him.

Amjad Abu Alala on social media: InstagramTwitter

His most recent work:

You Will Die at 20 (2019)

Muzamil, the main character of the film, is faced with a tragic prophecy at birth: that he was destined to die at 20. As Muzamil lives to fulfill his fate with the ambience of death surrounds him as he lives, he seeks to feed his curiosity about life beyond his mother’s frantic confines. Is a narration set in Northern Sudan, Aljazeera, that strives to portray the religouis foundation on which the society is built. More importantly, amidst the Sudanese most recent uprising the film’s orbits around the central theme of freedom.

In addition to being screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September 2019, the film also received the Lion of the Future Award 2019 for Best Debut Feature at the Venice International Film Festival (VIFF) and the Golden Star Award for Best Narrative at Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival 2019.

Watch the trailer here:

Suhaib Gasmelbari

Image source: bianet.org

Suhaib Gasmelbari is an award-winning Sudanese independent filmmaker. He is a cinematic studies graduate from University of Paris VIII in Saint-Denis, France. In the dawn of his career, Gasmelbari worked as a freelance cameraman and editor at Al Jazeera Media Network, France 24 and Al Qarra TV. The screenwriter and director produces short films and documentaries, including the award-wining Talking About Trees (2019). Gasmelbari is also the filmmaker behind the award-winning documentarySudan’s Forgotten Films, which follows the journey of two men, Benjamin and Awad, who’ve worked together for more than 40 years, running Sudan’s national film archive, attempting to save Sudan’s film archive of 13,000 films – one of the biggest in Africa. The film, produced by Al Jazeera’s flagship programme, Witnesshas won the prestigious Arts and Culture Story of the Year Award at the Foreign Press Association Media Awards in London in November 2018.

His most recent work:

Talking About Trees (2019)

Having received the Best Feature Documentary at Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival 2019 and Berlinale Glashütte Original – Documentary Award 2019 at the Berlinale Glashütte Original in Germany, Gasmelbari has clearly satisfied the critics. Talking About Trees illustrates the struggle of four oppositional artists with the shared dream of reviving Sudanese cinema. The ecstatic friends experience threats, persecution and even torture for their efforts. Through the film, Gasmelbari sheds light on the decay of Sudanese cinema as well as the dictatorial government, the economic and political crisis in Sudan.

Watch Al Jazeera’s report on Talking About Trees:

Hajooj Kuka

Image source: Zimbio

Born in Sudan in 1976 as Hisham Haj Omar, Hajooj Kuka is an award-winning independent filmmaker. Prior to fulfilling his artistic path, Kuka was pursuing Electrical Engineering at the University of Beirut, Lebanon, and Digital Design in San Jose State University, USA. While pursuing his degrees, Kuka proceeded with developing his passion for filmmaking by attending art classes. He eventually became a cinematographer and director with renowned films such as aKasha (2018)Beats of the Antonov (2014) and Darfur’s Skeleton (2009). Kuka’s films screened at over 60 film festivals and received seven international awards, including a People’s Choice Award in 2014 for his documentation of the conflict in the Nuba Mountains in Beats of Antonov.

Kuka is a war correspondent on the online platform, Girifna. He has also founded an artistic collective, known as the Refugee Club that harbours artistic members dedicated to illustrating the process of migration; touching on topics such as nation, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race.

Hajooj Kuka on social media: TwitterInstagram

His most recent work:

aKasha (2018)

aKasha is a comical narrative featuring an anti-government war hero that is torn between his love for his sweertheart, Lina, and the weapon. The film follows Adnan as he is on the run from the ‘akasha’ for not reporting for duty after leave. The story is set in the Nuba Mountains and portrays conflict, war and love in a light and humorous tone. aKasha premiered at Venice Film Festival 2019 alongside You Will Die at 20.

Watch the trailer here:

Marwa Zein

Image source: Marwa Zein

Born in Saudi Arabia in 1985, Marwa Zein is an award-winning Sudanese-Egyptian film director, script writer and producer for her acclaimed debut Khartoum Offside and acclaimed short fiction films A Game and One Week, Two Days. Despite her proclaiming her love for the arts, Zein attempted to fulfill her father’s wishes for her to pursue engineering. She began studying chemical engineering for three years till she was financially capable of funding her true dream. Zein went on to study cinema in Academy of Arts in Cairo, Egypt in 2005 and graduated with an honourable mention in 2009. Now she’s doing her masters in film in Germany, where she currently resides. Zein took part in various events including the Berlinale Talent Campus in Berlin. Her short film productions, include RandaA GameCulture for AllWhat a Lover Can Be?One WeekFontainebleau and Oufsaiyed Elkhortoum (Khartoum Offside). Her first feature documentary, Khartoum Offside, had its World Premiere at Berlinale Forum 2019 and Officially selected in the most prestigious international festivals; Visions Du Reel, CPH DOX, Hot Docs, Sheffield 2019 and IDFA. The film won Best Documentary award in FCAT Spain 2019 and Special mention Award at MAFF Sweden 2019. She has been directing short documentaries and films between 2011 and 2015 for Al Mawred – ‘Cultural Resources’. She worked as Assistant Director to many acclaimed Egyptian directors such as Halah Khalil, Khairi Beshara, Dawoud Abdelsayed and Shady Fakharany between 2009 and 2015. Zein established her own production company, ORE Productions, in 2017 in Khartoum, Sudan.

Her most recent work:

Khartoum Offside (2019)

Starring Elham Balatone, Nedal Fadlallah, Fatma Gaddal, and Sara Jubara, the documentary is a first-hand narration of a rebellious women determined to chase their ambitions of becoming professional footballers. A group of exceptional young ladies in Khartoum are determined to play football professionally. They are prepared to defy the ban imposed by Sudan’s Islamic military government and they will not take no for an answer. Their battle to get officially recognised as Sudan’s National Woman’s team is fearless, courageous and often laughable. But their struggle is unwavering. Despite the National Football Federation getting FIFA funds earmarked for the women’s teams, this team continues to be marginalised. However, there is a new spark of hope when the elections within the federation could mean real change of the entire system. With poetical entwinement of both political and social upheaval at the time, Zein narrates the progression of events by following these women throughout their path to respect and recognition whilst receiving threats of imprisonment from the military.

Watch the trailer here:

KHARTOUM OFFSIDE Teaser 01 from Marwa Zein on Vimeo.

Follow Marwa Zein’s work on Vimeo!

Mohamed Kordofani

Image source: SPLA

Mohamed Kordofani is a full-time aircraft engineer and part-time filmmaker, director and cinematographer based in Bahrain. The Sudanese filmmaker founded his own film production house, Kordofani Films, in 2014 to produce commercials or advertisements, corporate videos, music videos, event coverage and more. Kordofani is also an award-winning filmmaker who has accepted the Best Director Award for Gone for Gold. For Nyerkuk, he was received the Network of Alternative Arab Screens (NAAS) award at Carthage Film Festival, the Jury Award at Oran International Film Festival, the Black Elephant Award for Best Sudanese film at the Sudan Independent Film Festival; Pellegrini Award at the 27° African, Asian and Latin American Film Festival Awards in 2017; and multiple awards at film festivals across the world.

Mohamed Kordofani on social media: Twitter

His most recent work:

Kejer’s Prison (2019)

The movie kicks off with a detention centre where protesters are held by military forces. The hysterical soldier attempts to justify the military officers’ violent actions against the peaceful protesters. The poverty-stricken motive behind enlisting and the patriotic duty he owes to his country to keep it safe. The 13-minute monologue provides an ingenious second angle to the revolution and the struggles soldiers experienced during the up rise.

Watch the full film here:


Born and raised in the Middle East, Shahd Ismail is a 24-year-old currently residing in Toronto. She recently received a Master of Engineering (MEng) degree in Civil Engineering from Imperial College London, Class of 2018. In her spare time, Shahd enjoys giving back to the community, whether participating as a community volunteer or organising events with the engineering society in Ontario. She’s drawn to reading historical non-fiction, travelling the world and ticking off activities off of her bucket list. Her values are founded on the unconditional and generous upbringing her parents gave her and her boundless love for her country. Her dream is to start making a difference in Sudan today and to return to her motherland sometime in the future.

Source: 500wordsmag

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