Internationally celebrated filmmaker hajooj kuka has been wrongly jailed in Khartoum along with four other artists following an attack on the Civic Lab, where they worked to create art for community engagement. According to the Sudanese organization Gisa, where kuka is co-director: “The case, which was policed, prosecuted, and judged by al-Bashir era authorities, points to a dangerous backsliding in Sudan as oppressive laws put in place by the former regime continue to stifle free expression and target artists and human rights defenders.”
Two of kuka’s films, Beats of the Antonov (2014) and aKasha (2018), have screened at the Festival, with the former winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary. In order to raise awareness of his wrongful imprisonment and to demonstrate the value of artistic and political expression, both films are available for free today on Bell Digital Cinema until 6pm. (Availability after time of rental is 24 hours; once you click play, you have 12 hours to finish watching.)
aKasha, original programmer’s note, 2018 Toronto International Film Festival:
No viable solution to the civil war in rebel-held areas of Sudan has been found since the outbreak of violence in 2011. But every year in the Nuba Mountains region, all sides are forced to put down their arms due to an unlikely power: mud. During the rainy season, rebels return home to their families and loved ones to take advantage of the pause in fighting. It’s right after this welcome lull that hajooj kuka begins his offbeat comedy about a love triangle between a boy, a girl, and an AK-47.
After a post-coital argument with Lina (Ekram Marcus), Adnan (Kamal Ramadan) hightails it without grabbing his gun. With his pants barely pulled up, he runs into Absi (Ganja Chakado), a young man who’s not keen on rejoining the fighting. He wants to dodge the “kasha,” the annual round-up of soldiers. The pair then embark on a wild 24 hours — dodging their higher-ups, elders, and romantic rivals alike — to try and get back Adnan’s girl, his gun, and his dignity.
Last at TIFF in 2014 with the People’s Choice Documentary Award-winning Beats of the Antonov, kuka makes a move here to fiction, blending wry observational moments with cleverly written comedy, creating a rarely seen take on conflict and love.