TIFF Heads Call For Release Of Doc Filmmaker hajooj kuka, Jailed In Khartoum

Cameron Bailey and Joana Vicente, the co-heads of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) have called for the immediate release of documentary filmmaker hajooj kuka.

He, along with four other artists (Duaa Tarig Mohamed Ahmed, Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan, Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed, and Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad), have been jailed for two months in Khartoum following an attack on the Civic Lab, where they were creating  art for community engagement.

“hajooj kuka is an exceptional filmmaker and TIFF has been proud to present his work,” said Vicente and Bailey. “His films Beats of the Antonov and aKasha revealed a singular view of life in Sudan through the eyes of a remarkable artist. hajooj, along with four other artists, is now in prison in Sudan and we need to bring attention to this urgent and troubling situation. When an artist is silenced, society as a whole suffers.”

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.”

In an effort to increase awareness of kuka’s imprisonment and to demonstrate the value of artistic and political expression, both Beats of the Antonov and aKasha will be available to rent for free on the following dates:

  • Bell Digital Cinema – to Canadian audiences starting at 10 AM on September 19 until the rental deadline of 6 PM. Once rented, audiences will have 24 hours to start the film, and an additional 12 hours to finish watching.
  • Digital Cinema Pro – to international industry and press starting at 10 AM on September 19 until 10 AM on September 20.

TIFF also encouraged audiences to contact the Sudanese Embassy in their country and follow #ReleaseTheArtistsSudan on social media to learn more about this issue.

Two of kuka’s films, Beats of the Antonov (2014) and aKasha (2018), have premiered at TIFF, with the former winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary.

Beats of the Antonov paints an inspiring portrait of a people who, despite having lost kin, homes, and livelihoods in the ongoing conflict in Sudan, have improvised creative ways to continue harvesting crops and herding cattle and continue to celebrate their heritage in the face of devastation and defeat. Threading together the voices (speaking and singing) of militants, social workers, intellectuals and other everyday folk, Beats of the Antonov reverses conventional representations of victimhood and reveals an alternative narrative of tenacity and resilience.

aKasha is an offbeat comedy about a love triangle between a boy, a girl, and an AK-47, set during the short respite from civil unrest that takes place during the rainy season in Sudan.

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 Mohamed 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.

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