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The First South Sudanese Film Festival

Thursday 28 July 2016, by SIGNIS

Juba, July, 28th, 2016 (Internews). South Sudan recently held its first-ever movie gala. Hundreds of people went to Juba, the capital city, to watch “dramatic fictional tales and powerful documentaries about their country’s short history.”

The Juba Film Festival took place in the beginning of July, and showcased “the work of local and international filmmakers in a bid to change perceptions of a country that, outside its borders, is largely associated with the horrors of war.”

The man behind this idea is a Juba filmmaker, Simon Bingo. Bingo says that “he hopes culture can help the South Sudanese to ‘find their own identity,’ rather than being branded as warmongers.” “What we know now is that people are talking of South Sudanese as fighters, war people [who] like fighting, but we are struggling to try to change that,” said Bingo, speaking to Newsweek from Juba.

As the country looks to rebuild itself, Bingo says that culture and the arts can play a key role. “South Sudan has a lot of promising filmmakers and actually the audience [as well]—the people love films,” he says. “So there is the potential that we will be having young filmmakers coming out of South Sudan very soon.”

The festival had a busy programme with a series of short and longer films being shown at the Nyakuron Cultural Center in Juba. It concludes with a prize ceremony, where nominees in a variety of categories—director, editor, actor etc— were feted for their work.
As well as being enjoyed by their avid viewers, many of the films also touch on social issues relevant in South Sudan. These include, according to Bingo, topics such as forced marriage, and a practice known as dukhan, found in both Sudan and South Sudan. The practice involves women straddling the cooling, perfumed embers of a fire in the belief that smoke smooths the skin and tightens the vagina, thereby giving greater sexual pleasure to her husband.

For Bingo, the festival provides an opportunity for South Sudan to rebrand itself. “We can sell our country through independent industry, through film, through music, through arts and culture. These are things that can promote the image of the country,” he says.

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