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Director Mohamed Kordofani Discusses the “Systematic Racism” Depicted in His Film Goodbye Julia

In an exclusive chat with Variety, director Mohamed Kordofani reflected on the “systematic racism” depicted in his new film. The Sundanese director’s movie will soon be shown at Cannes and will be Sudan’s first movie at the film festival. Goodbye Julia is a story about two women (one from the North and one from the South) who represent the complicated relationship between northern and southern Sudanese communities. It’s the director’s intent that Goodbye Julia could “be the start of a movement for reconciliation between all the Sudanese people.”

While chatting with Variety, Kordofani stated, “The secession of South Sudan in my view happened because of the systematic racism and the social racism that we applied as Northerners and Muslims and Arabs toward the Southerners. And this has been the case throughout the history of Sudan. Tribalism has always been the motivation for all the decisions and all the politics in the country.”

He continued, “What’s happening now has nothing to do with racism when it comes to the current fighting. But [racism] has something to do with the inception of the warring militia [Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces which together toppled a civilian government in an October 2021 coup and recently started fighting each other]. So I know people will try to establish a relation between what’s happening now and what happened during the secession of the South.”

The director added, “But you have to look only at the history. Not at the current fighting. I’m against both factions, by the way. I’m against the army, because the army is still controlled by the Islamists who were protecting and Omar al-Bashir [the long-ruling Islamist autocrat who was toppled in a popular uprising in 2019] back then. And I’m against the militia who actually make a living by sending troops to Yemen or Libya as just mercenaries. So these guys are just fighting to preserve their own interest in the region.”

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Goodbye Julia Director Mohamed Kordofani Said What “Initially What Drove Me To Write the Film Was My Guilt.”

Station Films / Red Star Films / Klozium Studios

Kordofani then revealed what inspired him to make Goodbye Julia. He said, “I think that initially what drove me to write the film was my guilt. The guilt I felt when I heard the result of the separation referendum in 2011, which was that almost 99% of the Southerners said they don’t want to be united with the North. And for me, this result is by no means a political decision. It is quite obviously due to the racism. And when I looked at myself, before I blamed the government or anything, I found that I actually didn’t know any Southerners, although I lived in Khartoum all my life. And there are more than two or three million Southerners there. The only ones I knew were domestic workers. They came and worked for my mother, for my father. You’ve seen the film, everything in the film is actually inspired by my parents and what I’ve seen in my house.”

He continued, “And the problem is that we didn’t think anything was wrong with what was happening. Only after I became an adult I started to review these things and recall them, and I thought: “what the f*** were we doing?” And to this day, I think most of the Northerners are in denial of their racism. They’re not bad people. My mom is not a bad person. My father is not a bad person, but they grew in a system that they inherited from their ancestors. When the revolution broke out in 2018 for me the first thing we had to do is to create a new national identity and build a nation that is based on values, not on tribe. I mean you can be proud of wanting to be free. You can be proud of coexistence. You can be proud of other values, that are not based on race or gender. Not of things that drive people apart, instead of uniting them. So yeah, this basically was the motivation for making this film.”

The director also reflected on Sudan’s current situation and said, “I think the fighting will continue. I don’t think it’s going to stop. And if I can predict again, I think Darfur will separate [Darfur has been a battleground between the army and the paramilitary RSF since the latest conflict began]. The militia is a very tribalistic militia, and it comes only from Darfur. So these guys eventually are going to withdraw back to Darfur, and they’re going to have power over that war and eventually want to secede again. And unless us, civilians, call for removal of this racism, of tribalism, of all the things that really drove us apart, this fighting is going to continue forever.”

Kordofani added, “And this is what the film is saying, basically. We have to reconcile as people, as societies. We have to admit our mistakes and promise not to make them again. And this is really how I wrote the film. How I took these steps of reconciliation. So that’s what I hope. We don’t care what the military does; they can fight forever if they want. But if we unite as people, maybe we can stop the war because no military can fight without some support from the people.”

The director finished by saying, “I’m still tied to my country, because I have a company there and I have to go back. I have to make it work again, somehow. So I am hoping that the war lets up just a little bit, so that we are able to work. We are used to working in tough conditions. We’ve been working under the military coup, we worked during the revolution. We can work when things are messed up, but not this messed up. Not when there is bombing and stuff. So if the war just reduces a little bit, we can work.”

He added, “We had plans to revive all cinemas that had been shut down by the Islamists and we got support from NGOs and, actually, support from the government itself to do so. So we will do a very rudimental thing. We will just get a projector and a sound system and just use the same old chairs and the same old structure of these buildings and just paint the wall again for the screen. And that’s it. That’s really how I want to screen this film. I want to go out of Khartoum, go to Kosti, go to Darfur, go to all these places and just revive cinemas with very small budgets and just screen the film. So let’s hope the bombings stop. I think maybe they will stop, though the war will not end, if that makes sense.”

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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