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El Gouna Film Festival 2023: Shining Light on Sudanese Cinema

September 20, 2023

Coming into its sixth year, the Gouna Film Festival (GFF) has been celebrating the diverse filmmaking industry ever since its first edition in 2017. The Festival’s mission is to showcase a distinct selection of films, connecting filmmakers from around the region and bridging cultural gaps through the art of filmmaking.


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Striving to be a catalyst for the development of cinema in the Arab world, this year’s edition will see a collaboration between GFF and the Sudanese Film Group (SFG) to showcase a selection of eight restored Sudanese short films — treasures that attest to the resilience of Sudanese cinema.

The joint force between GFF and SFG comes under the festival’s ‘Special Presentations’ lineup, which aims to pay homage to a bygone era of cinematic innovation and storytelling brilliance.

The SFG was established in April 1989 with a mission “to champion the illuminating power of cinema against the shadows of darkness.” This group of dedicated filmmakers aspired to forge a new path for creative expression, cinematic exploration, and education.

For nearly 30 years, Sudan’s artists and filmmakers were banned and silenced under former military leader Omar Al Bashir’s regime, which culminated in a coup d’état in 2019.

Despite the various upheavals that could have succeeded in dismantling the making and production of cinema, these films are once again resurfacing, bringing to light the rich stories that were nearly lost to history.
The eight films have been restored by the Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst (Video Art) in Berlin. The directors of the films include Suliman Elnour, Eltayeb Mahdi, and Ibrahim Shaddad, who have demonstrated effort and dedication to preserve these cinematic treasures.

Through the art of filmmaking, these films aim to provoke, enlighten, and raise awareness — here are the eight films that will be showcased as part of the GFF’s ‘Special Presentations’ lineup from 13 to 20 October.

Al Dhareeh | The Tomb | Directed by El Tayeb Mahdi (1977)

Sudanese director El Tayeb Mahdi’s Al Dhareeh (‘The Tomb’) is a 16-minute short film that follows the story of a man who claims to be able to heal people.

Al Mahata | The Station | Directed by El Tayeb Mahdi (1989)

With only music and imagery, director El Tayeb Mahdi’s Al Mahata (‘The Station’) depicts encounters that happened at one of the largest crossroads between the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, and the city of Bur Sudan on the Red Sea.

Al Habl | The Rope | Directed by Ibrahim Shaddad (1985)

Director Ibrahim Shaddad’s short film Al Habl (‘The Rope’) documents two blind men making their way through the desert accompanied by a donkey. Throughout the film, sometimes the two men decide the way, and sometimes the donkey leads them through the desert.

Jagdparite | Hunting Party | Directed by Ibrahim Shaddad (1964)

Originally made as a graduation project at the German Academy of Film Art in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Jagdaprtie (‘Hunting Party’) is a treatise on racism, where director Ibrahim Shaddad tells the story of a white mob’s hunt for a black farmworker.

Jamal | A Camel | Directed by Ibrahim Shaddad (1981)

The short film Jamal (1981) by Ibrahim Shaddad, is a report from the life of a camel, most of which plays out in a dreary, small room – a sesame mill. It serves as a metaphor to the struggle of workers who work under gruefling conditions and challenges.

Arba’a Marat Lil Atfal | Four Times for Children| Directed by Suliman Elnour (1978)

Suliman Elnour’s Arba’a Marat Lil Atfal (‘Four Times for Children’) depicts the everyday life of children in facilities and schools for children with physical and mental disabilities.

Africa, The Jungle, Drums, and Revolution | Directed by Suliman Elnour (1979)

In this 12-minute short film, Sudanese director Suliman Elnour’s ‘Africa, The Jungle, Drums, and Revolution’ is an exploration of the image of African people in the eyes of the Soviets, where he delves into stereotypical representations of Africa in Soviet society. Elnour produced this film during his time as a student in Moscow’s VGIK film school, critiquing the representations he experienced on a first-hand basis.

Wa Laken Al Ard Tadour | It Still Rotates | Directed by Suliman Elnour (1978)

In his graduation film, Suliman Elnour depicts everyday life at a school in Yemen. In the school Elnour depicts, there are no boundaries and restrictions between teachers and students, rather, there is room for constructive communication in order to foster growth.

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