filmmaker Hajooj Kuka tells a dismally common story—a people and a country racked by war—using a novel cinematic palette. A native of Sudan, the subject of his film, Kuka punctuates his documentary with scenes of music-making and dance. Foreign Policy spoke with Kuka about his country’s identity crisis and what it would take for the regime in Khartoum to give up power.
The creation of South Sudan was the result of a failure to create a Sudanese identity that encompasses everybody. If you just go to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, and then go to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, you will get the idea that these people aren’t connected. But if you take the route, starting from Khartoum and going slowly south to Juba, you realize that these communities, ethnically and culturally, change gradually. There is actually a very strong collective identity between Sudan and South Sudan.
Most of the time, life is normal. And then the Antonovs—the Russian-made airplanes that the government employs to bomb the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile region— come and shell the area. But that only happens from time to time. When you are living there, you can almost forget that the country is at war. You get into your daily life, but then, suddenly, it’s disrupted. I wanted the audience to feel that in the film: to feel comfortable and then, out of nowhere, be disrupted. That’s how life is there.
The only way forward is for the Khartoum regime to give up power. That leaves four ways for change. First, the government can peacefully hand over power to a transitional government that calls for a national dialogue. Second, a mass protest topples the government. Third, an internal within-ruling-party or an army coup takes place. Fourth, a rebel group manages to overpower the government and take power. The last three options are better left to the Sudanese people to accomplish. The first option can be achieved if enough pressure is placed on the already weak Sudanese government. This is a peaceful road to achieving democracy in Sudan and should be the official stand of Western governments.