After the 2019 revolution, Sudanese filmmakers suddenly enjoyed greater openness and have won multiple international awards. But the artists have yet to receive the same recognition at home.
Cinema languished in Sudan through three decades of authoritarian rule by Omar al-Bashir. But Sudanese took to the streets to demand freedom, peace and social justice, and Bashir’s rule came to an end in April 2019.
“We started realizing how much our society needs our dreams,” said director Amjad Abu Alala.
His 2019 film You Will Die at Twenty was Sudan’s first Oscar entry and the first Sudanese film broadcast on Netflix, winning prizes at international film festivals such as Italy’s Venice and Egypt’s El Gouna. The film tells the story of a young man a mystic predicts will die at age 20.
As Sudan undergoes a precarious political transition, the country’s filmmakers have found more space in which to operate, Alala said. Young filmmakers act “without the complexes, the lack of self-confidence or the frustration that we suffered in previous generations,” he added.
Talal Afifi, director of the Khartoum-based Sudan Film Factory program, has trained hundreds of young people in filmmaking. Afifi began work long before the 2019 revolution, with advances in digital camera technology making filmmaking far more accessible.
The filmmaker attended a 2008 short film festival in Munich, where the winning film, an Iraqi documentary shot on a palm-size videocamera, inspired him to return home and set up a training center and production house.
In the past decades, the Film Factory has organized 30 screenwriting, directing and editing workshops and produced more than 60 short films honored at international festivals from Brazil to Japan. The Film Factory launched the Sudan Independent Film Festival in 2015.