Fiche Film
MOYEN Métrage | 2008
Cinema in Sudan: Conversations with Gadalla Gubara
Pays concerné : Soudan
Durée : 52 minutes
Genre : portrait
Type : documentaire
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Premier film documentaire de Frédérique Cifuentes, Cinema in Sudan: Conversation with Gadalla Gubara, dresse le portrait d’un grand réalisateur soudanais, Gadalla Gubara (1920 – 2008). A l’âge de 88 ans, il travaillait toujours ; c’est l’un des pionniers du cinéma en Afrique.

Juste avant sa mort (en 2008, date de réalisation de ce film), il avait perdu la vue, mais n’en continuait pas moins à filmer la vie au quotidien au Sudan comme personne d’autre avant lui. A travers son oeuvre, Gadalla nous révèale un Soudan à la fois mystérieux et incompris.

En dépit de la censure et du manque de soutien financier durant près de 60 ans, il a produit des films de manière indépendante et unique dans un pays où la liberté d’expression est un luxe rare.

Le film « Conversations with Gadalla Gubara » retrace le combat d’un homme qui a reçu en 2006 le Prix d’Excellence (Award for Excellence) pour l’ensemble de sa carrière aux Africa Academy Awards, Nigeria.

Le film montre une collection unique d’extraits de films et de photos de l’un des fondateurs du cinéma africain.

Gadalla était une personne avec un tempérament unique : un Soudanais au grand charme, caustique dans sa critique de la réalisation cinématographique, un humoriste très raffiné dont la perte de la vue n’a pas tempéré le Rebelle en lui.


2009 | Fida doc’Souss, Agadir, Morocco
* Sélection

2009 | Festival International du Film Documentaire Fes, Morocco
* Sélection

2009 | FESPACO, Burkina Faso
* Sélection

2008 | Dubai Film Market
* Sélection

2008 | Journées Cinématographiques de Carthage, Tunisie 2008
* Sélection

2008 | The Kenya International Film Festival, 2008
* Sélection


Frédérique Cifuentes’s first documentary film, Cinema in Sudan: Conversation with Gadalla Gubara, builds up a portrait of a great Sudanese film-maker, Gadalla Gubara (1920 – 2008). He was still working at the age of eighty-eight – one of the pioneers of cinema in Africa.

He recently lost his sight but still continued to film life in Sudan as no one before him. Through his oeuvre, Gadalla reveals to us a Sudan both mysterious and misunderstood.

Despite censorship and lack of financial support over sixty years, he produced cinema that is independent and unique in a country where freedom of expression is a rare luxury.

The film « Conversations with Gadalla Gubara » retraces the struggle of a man who received the 2006 Award for Excellence for his career at the Africa Academy Awards, Nigeria.

The film shows a unique collection of archive footage and stills photography from one of the founding fathers of African cinema.

Gadalla is a person with a unique character: a Sudanese of great charm, caustic in his criticism of film-making, a humorist of refinement whose blindness has not tempered the rebel in him. He is, moreover, one of the last great figures of African cinema still with us. He knew the ending of the colonial era, saw the pomp and the disillusion, watched as his country sank into the depths of obscurantism.

In 1969, Gadalla and his friends, Ousmane Sembene, Timité Bassori, Mustapha Alassane came up with a revolutionary idea: the Panafrican Festival of Cinema and Television of Ouagadougou (FESPACO). Today, Gadalla recalls the endless discussions beneath the baobab tree at the Hôtel des Indépendences.

Conversations with Gadalla reveals the character of an extraordinary man who has spent his whole life fighting for freedom of thought. He has never ceased to stand up for cultural values that remain independent of the political life of his country. Through the medium of film, the master’s vision becomes clear to us; we discover his own views on his work, his struggle to achieve his ideals, his hopes. This documentary tells the exceptional story of Gadalla and the cinema.

For this man film is a tool for understanding a complex society deeply rooted in a living culture. Extracts from his works will enable us to grasp the nature of the Sudan in depth. Other sequences filmed in the heart of contemporary life will serve to shed light on the sources that have inspired him.

Gadalla helps us to put Sudan and Africa in a new perspective. He immerses us in a glorious and prosperous age when cinema had its place in society, its adepts and was recognised as an institution of Sudanese life. Since then, the country has slowly collapsed beneath the weight of social and political crises. In 1989, democracy was suppressed by a military junta. As a result, censorship and the sharia have practically annihilated the cinema in Sudan. But Gadalla has not changed. He has persisted in maintaining his professional attitude free of any political influence. He has continued to create works that transmit and share his views on freedom. Not surprisingly, this is a man admired by his peers and by all Sudanese for his determination and fighting spirit.

The project is based on photographic research carried out in Sudan. This project explore the relationship between architecture and a cultural tradition as seen through the cinemas of Khartoum.
The project relied on my recent experience in Sudan covering the history of cinema through the life of the pioneer filmmaker Gadalla Gubara.

My portfolio shows how I conducted my work in Khartoum, Sudan. I was using the Mamiya 6 x 7 medium format, still camera.

Khartoum, in Arabic: al-Khartûm, meaning « the trunk of elephants », is the capital of Sudan, it stands at the junction of the White Nile, flowing from Uganda, and the Blue Nile, from Ethiopia. The city and its surrounding districts constitute an agglomeration of at least four million inhabitants. The city was founded in 1823 by Mehemet-Ali Pasha, viceroy of Egypt, to take advantage of a position considered to be of strategic importance. After being besieged many times by British and Egyptian forces involved in putting down local uprisings, the place was in a very poor state of repair. From 1910 onwards, it was entirely rebuilt to the plans of a British architect and became, from then on, the capital of Sudan.

What is Khartoum like today? What are the influences of British and other styles of architecture which contribute to Khartoum’s special character?

It is through the cinemas of the city that I have chosen to analyse the relationship between the physical environment and those who live there. Stepping through the doors of these historic buildings, the visitor can recognise social and cultural forms that stem from knowledge and technical means far beyond those of an Arab or African town.
Over the years Khartoum has become a city in perpetual evolution resulting from the interaction of people with their material environment. The cinema, considered as a representative form of the audio-visual arts and of architecture, is an element of urban life that can be seen to highlight both cultural heritage and collective memory.

Going to the cinema in Khartoum can be a journey in itself. The cinema can show us a world of its own, with performances in the open air beneath the stars; it’s a voyage of discovery into the history of the country; an encounter with a unique cultural experience.

Nowadays Khartoum cinemas offer mainly a selection of Indian, Bollywood films with the occasional American production thrown in. Set up in the 1940’s and 50’s by the British, cinemas were then frequented by the European population, by Sudanese Jewish families and by middle class Sudanese who were well enough off to do so. All the classic titles of the day passed on the silver screen, given two performances, one at 7pm and another at 9.30pm.

The external shape of these buildings varied according to the district and the year of their construction. Khartoum still has a dozen or so of these open-air cinemas still functioning mainly to provide entertainment. The facilities are used specifically to provide for a particular public.

Frédérique Cifuentes

Running time: 52 minutes
Director & producer: Frédérique Cifuentes
Executive producer: Sias Wilson
Editor & Post Sound: Peter Lewis
Assistant Producer & Sound recording: Sidi Moctar
Original music: Tim Puckett, Waleed Waselny Norak (aka Waleed Zaki eldin Hummaidah), Sherhabeel Ahmed (aka Shrhabil Ahmid Mohamid)
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