Daugh­ter of Su­danese film legend pre­serves his le­gacy

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

AS she drove past an apart­ment com­plex on a street in Khar­toum, Sara Jadal­lah turned silent. It was here that her late fa­ther, the leg­endary film­maker Jadal­lah Jubara, set up Su­dan’s first pri­vate film stu­dio in the 1970s.

But in 2008, fol­low­ing an eightyear court bat­tle over own­er­ship of the land, the gov­ern­ment de­mol­ished Stu­dio Jad.

The de­mo­li­tion, shortly be­fore the film­maker’s death at the age of 88, left lit­tle trace of the stu­dio.

But stop­ping next to the blocks of flats that now stand in its place, Jadal­lah pointed at a white patch on an old wall among the new build­ings.

“The screen is still there,” she said.

With her fa­ther’s stu­dio gone, Jadal­lah has vowed to pre­serve his life’s work.

With help from Ger­man ex­perts, she has started digi­tis­ing his en­tire film col­lec­tion to cre­ate what she be­lieves is Su­dan’s first pri­vate ar­chive of 15mm and 35mm films.

“Through his cam­era he doc­u­mented Su­dan’s his­tory. I want to pre­serve this le­gacy,” Jadal­lah, 66, told AFP at her home in a south­ern Khar­toum dis­trict.

Jubara was once an of­fi­cer in the Bri­tish army. Shortly after World War II he be­gan work as a pro­jec­tion­ist in a Bri­tish mo­bile film unit.

He went on to cap­ture iconic mo­ments in Su­dan’s his­tory, in­clud­ing the hoist­ing of the coun­try’s flag as it gained in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1956.

In a ca­reer span­ning more than five decades, he pro­duced more than 100 doc­u­men­taries and four fea­ture films, in­clud­ing the fa­mous 1984 love story Ta­jooj.

But years of stor­age in poor con­di­tions have taken a toll on his film archives.“Film rolls have a life­span and be­cause of ex­po­sure to heat and dust they have been dam­aged,” said Jadal­lah.

In his early years, Jubara faced re­sis­tance from a con­ser­va­tive Su­danese so­ci­ety, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for him to find ac­tors.

But a de­ter­mined Jubara en­cour­aged fam­ily mem­bers to work with him, in­clud­ing Jadal­lah.

“He be­lieved that cam­era­men were the most im­por­tant peo­ple in the world … and in their hands was the most im­por­tant weapon,” she said.

Jadal­lah, who made a name for her­self as a na­tional swim­ming cham­pion de­spite hav­ing po­lio as a child, also stud­ied film in Cairo.

She worked with her fa­ther when he be­gan to lose his eye­sight due to old age, help­ing him film part of an adap­ta­tion of Victor Hugo’s Les Mis­er­ables.

Jubara’s doc­u­men­taries in­cluded films on Dar­fur, where a deadly con­flict since 2003 has killed tens of thou­sands of peo­ple.

His early films pre­served a snap­shot of Su­danese so­ci­ety be­fore the 1989 coup that in­stalled an Is­lamist-backed regime.

Prior to the coup, Su­dan was home to more than 60 cin­e­mas, in­clud­ing 16 in Khar­toum that of­ten screened films from Hol­ly­wood and Bol­ly­wood.

To­day, after years of eco­nomic hard­ships and gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions on im­port­ing for­eign films, just three cin­e­mas op­er­ate in Khar­toum.

Ger­man film­maker Katha­rina von Schroeder, who is help­ing Jadal­lah to digi­tise Jubara’s col­lec­tion, said watch­ing his work was like tak­ing a jour­ney into the past.

“There were lot more en­ter­prises and fac­to­ries at that time, a lot more night clubs,” she said.

“With­out any judge­ment, it was a dif­fer­ent place,” she said as she showed footage from Jubara’s col­lec­tion.

In one com­mer­cial, a young Jadal­lah is seen dressed in a red top and a skirt.

In an­other clip, Su­danese cou­ples in Western clothes danced at a late-evening open-air party – some­thing rare in to­day’s Su­dan.

“There is no con­flict be­tween re­li­gion and cin­ema,” said Jadal­lah, “but some ex­trem­ists re­ject cin­ema with­out even un­der­stand­ing it.”

“If you don’t have cin­ema, you don’t have a voice,” she said.

Over his five-decade ca­reer, Jubara pro­duced more than 100 hours of film.

Digi­tis­ing them is an enor­mous job. Around 40 hours have been pro­cessed so far, at a cost of tens of thou­sands of dol­lars.

The project has re­ceived back­ing from a Ger­man foun­da­tion, the Arse­nal In­sti­tute for Film and Video Art, and the Ger­man em­bassy in Khar­toum.

“It was def­i­nitely worth sav­ing this her­itage … and Sara had this wish to pre­serve her fa­ther’s le­gacy,” said Schroeder.

The pro­cess­ing was done in Ber­lin. Jadal­lah was ini­tially hes­i­tant to hand over rare footage.

“I could un­der­stand that … In films as opposed to dig­i­tal, you just have one copy and there’s noth­ing you can do if it’s gone,” said Schroeder.

“As far as I know this is the only pri­vate film ar­chive for 15mm and 35mm ma­te­ri­als in Su­dan,” she said.

Tayeb Mahdi, di­rec­tor of a Khar­toum-based film school, said the project was a fit­ting trib­ute to Jubara.

“This gov­ern­ment doesn’t care about cin­ema, while the pri­vate sec­tor is dis­in­ter­ested,” he said.

“De­spite this, Jubara kept on mak­ing films.”

For Jadal­lah, pre­serv­ing her fa­ther’s le­gacy is a gift to Su­dan.

“I feel sad when I re­mem­ber my fa­ther wit­ness­ing his stu­dio be­ing de­mol­ished … I feel sad when there is no cin­ema,” she said, wip­ing away tears.

“I want to pre­serve his films, be­cause Su­dan’s fu­ture gen­er­a­tions should see their coun­try’s his­tory.”

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