By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 16, 2015)
In the harrowing opening sequence of Sudanese war journalist Hajooj Kuka’s documentary, members of a refugee camp frenetically scatter for cover as one of them exclaims “The plane is coming! The Antonov! It’s here!” The obviously unnerved cameraman swerves his lens skyward, where a solitary, seemingly benign prop plane lazes overhead.
Then suddenly, a massive explosion…followed by shocked silence for a few seconds as the camera surveys the damage; several huts engulfed in flame. Then, as the smoke clears, a most extraordinary sound; the last thing you would expect to hear: the laughter of children. “The laughter is always there,” a resident explains, “People laugh despite the catastrophe because they realize they are not hurt…laughter is like a new birth.”
This pragmatism has become a crucial coping mechanism for the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba mountain regions of Sudan, an African nation that has been in a perpetual civil war since 1956. Kuka illustrates how it’s not just laughter, but non-stop communal singing and dancing that keeps spirits (and culture) alive. Most interestingly, there is zero demarcation between the “performer” and the “audience”. Anyone can play along or improvise a verse; it’s Democracy at its purest.