4 December 2011

South Sudan: From the Film Festival At the French Cultural Centre, University of Juba - I Am a Slave - a Shocking Reminder of Our Past

At the opening speech, before the cast, Gabriel Range, the film director, said that, the film is 'loosely based on the life of Mende Nazer', a former slave girl, abducted from one of the villages in the Nuba Mountains dragged like a sheep into Khartoum households, where she was subjugated to a slavish work under the fellow women, who became so cruel and she was transported to London, where she continued working as a slave.

Luckily she was able to escape to freedom with the help of her fellow Nubian. At the end of the film, South Sudanese audience, mainly students from University of Juba, took off as fast as they could and with sad faces, clasped lips and gloomy silence.

The memory about such gruesome scenes in the film was synonymous with our own gruesome scenes that destroyed our land. It was like salt in the wound. No one wanted to discuss about it, because, it is the pain that has lived with us for many years and we are trying to forget it.

From my own reading, Mende Nazer, the woman about whom the film extracted the theme of slavery in the 21st century London, has written a very good account of her abduction in her book "Slave".

That account of her life, in the hands of her Khartoum and later UK based Arab masters was published in Germany, and after some hurdles, won her an asylum residency in the UK.

Like many other South Sudanese, the movie has reinforced our hatred for some Arabs in Khartoum, who still believe that Black people in the Sudan are supposed to serve slavishly the light skinned people of their race.

"I am a Slave" is a sad reminder of the sad reality that most of our people went through in South Sudan and in the rest of the Sudan. We were enslaved in so many ways as proved by so many documentaries and well documented books about Sudan. Until recently, North Sudan does not believe that we are capable of ministering ourselves.

I was even over hearing late Muamar Gaddafi saying infamous things about being unthinkable for their slaves of South Sudan to claim independence. Although I was sad to relive the past, I highly commend the gruesome show of the atrocities committed during the abductions by Muslims against their fellow Muslims in the movie, "I am a Slave".

As the film shows, we have lived with that gruesome scenes of deaths, painful separation and interrupted childhood for many years. No one in South Sudan will deny that his or her childhood like that of Malia, was interrupted by war and abductions from the South, west and central into Khartoum.

Such sad scenes are the cause of trauma in South Sudan, where we were subjected to daily helicopter and Antonov bombs.

In this film, the main theme in my opinion is the paradox of Islam or the paradox of those who claim to preach the message of horror as opposed to the message of peace and love as written in the Koran.

The Koran says that it is wrong to mistreat another Muslim and yet our Muslims from Khartoum used to mistreat and continue to do with other Muslim members, whose homes were burnt down and many lives lost.

I was lucky to meet the director of "I am a Slave" movie from the Film Library of the British Council. We are fast striking a bond of friendship. The movie was shown last Friday night at the French Cultural Centre.

From the little time I had with him, Gabriel Range is a man of great talent, ease and wide experience in the film industry. He has great dreams for quality film industry in South Sudan.

He is willing to recruit as many South Sudanese actors, dramatists, humorists, poets, writers, script writers, comedians as much as possible to promote South Sudanese culture through motion pictures and or cultural diversity.

In the near future and not so long from now, Range with the support of the British Council and other EU members, plans to organize a session of workshops in the film industry as well as script writing and Christopher of the French cultural Centre, another hard working man, who made watching these movies possible, is willing to support this move of training workshops for motion picture industry aspirants.

We say that all this is thanks to the British Council and other EU members, willing to partner with Range or support his dreams of film industry in South Sudan in a small way through motion pictures.

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