Suhaib Gasmelbari, whose Sudanese documentary “Talking About Trees” premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama section, received the Variety Middle East and North Africa Region Talent Award Saturday at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt from festival director Intishal Al Timimi.
Variety critic Jay Weissberg, who selected the honoree, said that it is not usual that within five minutes of a film starting he begins to cry, but he did so when watching “Talking About Trees.” “There is this most beautiful scene of these Sudanese directors who have not been able to make films, who have not been able to watch films on a big screen, who are expressing their love for cinema by recreating a scene from ‘Sunset Boulevard,’” he explained.
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The documentary has as its backdrop the destruction of cinema in Sudan due to a toxic mix of dictatorial government and religious fundamentalism, but front and center are these four men and their passion for making and watching movies. “It is really a film as well that speaks to all of us about what cinema means to us; about the beauty of seeing a film as an audience, of experiencing it collectively, rather than watching it on our iPads, rather than watching it on our cellphones; that the importance of having that with us is so vital,” Weissberg said.
“And in a country like Sudan, which has been denied this for so long, to watch these men trying so hard to get Charlie Chaplin back on screen, to have people view that kind of pleasure as an audience, was really very, very powerful. So for me there was little question about who to give the award to.”
Gasmelbari dedicated the award to the four filmmakers in his documentary, who will attend the screening of the film in El Gouna on Wednesday.