The International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR) and its founding institutions – International Film Festival Rotterdam, the European Film Academy and International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam – call for the Sudanese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release filmmaker Hajooj Kuka and the four artists imprisoned with him.
The call was also signed by Venice International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Berlinale, Sundance Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Visions du Reel, Venice Critics’ Week, European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE), New Zealand International Film Festival, Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Durban International Film Festival, DOK Leipzig, the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, DOX BOX and PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection.
Hajooj Mohamed Haj Omar (Hajooj Kuka) is a prominent Sudanese filmmaker and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. As a director of both documentary and fiction films, his work has received critical acclaim world-wide. His documentary Beats of the Antonov on war, music and the resilience of the people of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains, won the People's Choice Award at TIFF 2014. Foreign Policy Magazine called him one of the Leading Global Thinkers of 2014. In 2018, Hajooj Kuka’s first narrative feature film Akasha premiered in Venice and was nominated for Best Film at the Venice International Film Critics Week. Alongside his filmmaking, he also teaches drama and filmmaking to young artists in Khartoum and is the co-founder of the Refugee Club, an alliance of Sudanese artists whose work reflects an awareness of the transitory state of migration.
On 10 August 2020, Hajooj Kuka was arrested together with ten other artists from the Civic Lab in Khartoum, where they were rehearsing a theatre play. After being detained and assaulted by the police, the Central Khartoum Primary Court issued a verdict against five of the ten young artists, falsely accusing them of public annoyance and disruption of public safety. On 17 September 2020, Hajooj Kuka and four other artists were sentenced to two months of imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 SDG (76 euros).
We are very concerned about the safety of Hajooj Kuka and his fellow artists and call on the Sudanese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and his fellow artists and encourage all film and culture institutions around the world to do the same.
Update 5 October: Hajooj Kuka and four other artists were released in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum on 1 October 2020, two weeks after they were imprisoned on charges of causing a public nuisance while participating in a theatre workshop. However, six other artists who were arrested in relation to the incident are not yet released and still waiting for their appeal. Read more here.
Update 7 October: All six artists who were still held in prison have now been released.
Photo in header: Still: Hajooj Kuka