A New Generation behind the Camera
Sunday, October 21, 2012 – 08:00
Written by Linn Hjort and published in ETC Magazine. Translated to English by Karolina Lindén.
To read the original article in Swedish click this link.
After a golden age in film and documentary the small film industry which existed in Sudan has been completely shut down. But by small means new filmmakers are starting to make an effort to get through.
Thirty year-old Issraa El-Kogali is in the starting blocks as a documentary filmmaker. Now she studies in Sweden.
In Sudan 1920 Gadalla Gubara was born, known as “Africas first filmmaker”. He made 31 documentaries and four of the countries eight domestic fiction films. When he turned blind at the age of 80 he continued to produce film by the help of his daughter.
But the time in which Gadalla Gubara made his films was radically different from the circumstances Issraa El-Kogali and other young filmmakers face today. In the 1940’s and 50’s the capital Khartoum was an exuberant city with many night clubs and entertainment. There were several outdoor cinemas, and Gadalla Gubara worked for the government and produced educational films which were spread through mobile cinemas all over the country, an area as large as 2,5 million square kilometers.
After the coup 1989 sharia laws were introduced, the second time around in the country’s post-colonial history in addition to a strict censorship. Sudan’s only distributor of local and international film was shut down by the Ministry of Culture a few years later. “Today there is no proper film industry to speak of in Sudan, only ventures by the Goethe Institute among few others,” Issraa El-Kogali says.
Made a film in a month
For the past 15 years only three fiction films have been made in The Sudan, and the documentaries which are made are being sponsored by foreign organizations.
Issraa El-Kogali has also participated in a course in documentary filming at The Goethe Institute in Khartoum. That is where she made her first documentary In Search of Hip Hop. “I used the workshop’s cameras when no one else needed them and made my own film during the last month of the course,” she says.
In In Search of Hip Hop Issraa El-Kogali introduces Sudanese hip hopers who rap in both English and Arabic. It has been screened in Sudan, at an international film festival in Lagos, at an exhibition in London and a few weeks ago in Stockholm.
Born in Sudan, she has been moving between Khartoum, The United States and Great Britain until she moved back to her homeland in 2003, to work as a photographer and a writer. “I think it is easier for me than for a young man. I smile a lot and people easily start talking to me when I’m working out in the field. That makes it easier to photograph them. You need to have a license to take photographs in most places in Sudan, and I have never actually had problems getting permission – I think it helps being a woman”.
Issraa El-Kogali is hopeful about the future for Sudan’s young filmmakers, since there is now bigger opportunities for education and development in the country. She ended up in Sweden when she was searching for a sanctuary from the fatigue which came after years as a freelancer in the tough job atmosphere in Khartoum. Now she is here to study one year at the Royal Institute of Art’s guest program in Stockholm.
“My project is called Nora’s cloth. I’m trying to present an alternative female identity which I can relate to personally, in contrast to the representation of Muslim and Sudanese women which I encounter in film and media”.
Right now the focus is set on her education and training, but the dream is to make fiction films. “I like happy stories – don’t we all? I don’t see myself as the typical investigative documentary filmmaker. Maybe it’s a bit shallow to think that way about one’s work – I just want it to bring a positive message,” she concludes.
Photo Caption: Issraa El-Kogali shows clothing in Sudanese style in Stockholm as a part of her art project. Photo: © El-Kogali assisted by Paul Abrigo.