South Sudan’s Sosywood

Coming soon to a screen near you?

Young film-makers hope to draw attention to social problems like gang violence and child marriage with their movies

By Inna Lazareva

JUBA, June 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – At the entrance to a wooden shack in a quiet neighbourhood of South Sudan’s capital, Juba, a young man in ripped jeans and sunglasses stands gripping a golden pistol, his finger hovering over the trigger.

“And action!” comes the call from a corner of the cabin, where Emmanuel Lobijo Josto, 22, is directing a movie about gang warfare, wiping off sweat in the 40-degree Celsius (104F) heat.

In the world’s newest nation, suffering from a conflict between rival factions that erupted in 2013, young people volunteering as actors, producers and directors are making films to get communities talking about social problems.

They hope their work will help bring peace to communities where politicians and aid agencies have failed – and build a thriving film industry into the bargain.

The new action movie in English and Juba-Arabic, entitled “The Forgotten Generation”, highlights the youth violence plaguing the city, Lobijo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“I believe telling someone what is wrong through the power of film is very important – and South Sudan has lots of untold stories,” he said.

Film-making may not seem like a priority in a nation roughly the size of France, which broke away from Sudan six years after the end of a long war, beginning life in 2011 with just 100 km (62 miles) of paved roads.

Today, weighed down by violence, poverty and corruption, it still lacks schools, hospitals and other basic infrastructure.

The film-makers say the ongoing bloodshed and humanitarian crisis in South Sudan mask other deep-rooted social problems, including child marriage, gang violence and stigmatisation of HIV/AIDS patients.

They hope their work will help shift mindsets.

“The movie is trying to bring this change in mentality, to break this chain of violence,” said Patrick Nyarsuk, 22, a radio presenter acting the part of a gangster in Lobijo’s film.

Patrick James, who won the best-actor award at the 2017 Juba Film Festival, said South Sudan’s people were losing hope of a better future. “But all the actors here believe that one day change will come,” he added.

And just like Hollywood and Nigeria’s Nollywood, they dream of putting South Sudan on the cinematic map with their own “Sosywood” genre, he said.

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