The Sudanese pioneer of African cinema

In 1969, Gadalla Gubara and his friends, Ousmane Sembene, Timité Bassori and Mustapha Alassane came up with an idea: FESPACO.

A scene from "Cinema in Sudan." Gadalla Gubara is in the middle. His daughter is on the right.

After a week of being bombarded with all sorts of “good news” from the horn of Africa regarding oil and bombings, I decided to use the weekend to search for days of normalcy in Sudan. No, I did not fly to Khartoum but I got a quick memory lane trip via the film, “Cinema in Sudan: conversations with Gadalla Gubara” (2007), a documentary by Frederique Cifuentes Morgan, who as a filmmaker has a healthy obsession with Sudan evidenced by her three feature length documentary films about the country.

‘Cinema in Sudan” follows the great Sudanese filmmaker, Gadalla Gubara (1920-2008), one of the pioneers of cinema in Africa and especially cinema in Sudan. The film provides a space and voice for an old man to tell his story to a country that is distracted. A little bit about Gadalla. In 1969, it was Gadalla and his pals, Ousmane Sembene, Timité Bassori, Mustapha Alassane that came up with a revolutionary idea: the Panafrican Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou (FESPACO). It is indeed ironic and saddening that he died the year after the documentary came out.

Apart from the quick wit and humor of Gadalla Gubara and the beautiful reels of old Sudanese movies, one cannot help but be captivated by the music accompanying the documentary. My Sudanese movie-watching companion could not stop singing along throughout the documentary. Music by Waleed Waselny Norak and Sherhabeel Ahmed felt magical (not exaggerating here).

I left feeling like I was starting to learn about Sudan. Perhaps Gadalla is right and Sudan is indeed misunderstood? His Sudan anyways, or perhaps my Africa.

Further Reading

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