Director of Cannes’ first Sudanese film: I walk red carpet as people flee bullets

May 23, 2023 - 1:37 PM
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The 76th Cannes Film Festival - Photocall for the film "Goodbye Julia" in competition for the category Un Certain Regard - Cannes, France, May 21, 2023. Director Mohamed Kordofani poses. (Reuters/Sarah Meyssonnier)

 For Mohamed Kordofani, being at the Cannes Film Festival is bittersweet: He directed the first Sudanese film to be included in the festival’s official selection as weeks of fighting in Sudan have driven nearly 1.1 million people from their homes.

“I feel immensely honored and very happy that the film made it to Cannes, and it’s such a great reward to all the crew and the cast, and myself included,” he told Reuters on Monday.

“But at the same time, I feel really bad … I walk the red carpet while people are running away from bullets and bombing.”

His film, “Goodbye Julia,” which premiered Saturday, looks at the effect South Sudan’s split from Sudan in 2011 has had on people’s lives through two women, Mona and Julia, played by theatre actor and singer Eiman Yousif and model Siran Riak.

Undermined by racism, war and political instability, relations between the two countries remains tense to this day.

Mona, a retired singer from northern Sudan, tries to erase her feelings of guilt after covering up a murder by taking the victim’s South Sudanese widow, Julia, and her son into her home. Unable to confess, she decides to leave the past behind.

Sudan has been gripped by fighting between two military factions for more than a month, with several ceasefires failing to hold.

Some 705 people have been killed and at least 5,287 have been injured, according to the World Health Organization, though the true death toll is believed to be much higher.

Kordofani said he hoped Sudan could find peace and reconciliation in the future.

“I hope we can build a new national identity that is proud of values that bring people together like freedom; like justice; like coexistence,” he said.

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—Reporting by Thomas Newey, Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien