Sitting in a warm cozy theatre in Glasgow watching a group of men battle state censorship to get permission to put on a community screening of a film, creates an immediate confrontation with your own privilege.
Winner of the Panorama Audience at the 2019 Berlinale, Talking About Trees, follows the Sudanese Film Group (SFG) in their quest to revive cinema in Sudan, which was shut down after the military coup by Omar Al Bashir in 1989.
Directed by Suhaib Gasmelbari, the documentary follows four senior men from SFG and in many ways the film takes on the characteristics of the men.
Talking About Trees carries the pace of the older men. It is not full of action or B-roll showing the political uprisings that lead to the demise of cinema. Rather it simply follows the SFG men solving the logistics of holding a free community screening, including renting a venue, cleaning and getting the state’s approval.
The sparsity in musical soundtrack also allows the film to depict the calmness and quiet you would usually associate with your grandfather.
And lastly, the sandy warmth of Sudan feels just as welcoming as the friendship between the men. They playfully make a pretend film set and joke about how easy cleaning would have been easier if they had western technology. Their humour is persistent despite the continuous opposition they meet.
A few of the group members have film educations from countries further west and their projects from their time abroad are shown sporadically throughout the film, breaking up the texture the film, while also allowing a more intimate connection with the men.
Talking About Trees is a love letter to the community cinema can create, but also a testament to the cultural deprivation censorship causes. And it makes you wonder what other privileges you are taking for granted.
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