With “Goodbye Julia,” Mohamed Kordofani made history at the Cannes Film Festival as the first Sudanese director to be selected for the official competition. However, the 39-year-old self-taught filmmaker could not change the fate of the tragic separation between Sudan and South Sudan.
On Wednesday, November 8, the film was released in theaters in France, revealing the deep-seated fractures of a people marked by racism and profound segregation.
While he could not fulfill his dearest wish of bringing peace to his country, another wish was granted. Mohamed Kordofani dedicated his film “Goodbye Julia” to his father, saying, “I have two adorable daughters, and my father passed away after the birth of my youngest daughter.
Throughout his life, my father asked me to have a son so that his family name could continue to exist because, in our part of the world, daughters do not pass on their names. Before my father’s death, I told him that I was going to do something better than having a boy, I was going to make a film, and that this film would live forever, even longer than a son. He smiled. He didn’t believe it, but he smiled. For this, I dedicated the film to my father. I think his name will live forever now.”
During the film’s world premiere, Mohamed Kordofani’s heart was broken. He had filmed in his hometown to make it a symbol of reconciliation and peace. However, everything took a different turn. Filming began just after the military coup in October 2021, ultimately leading to the war’s start in April 2023. The film crew was forced to flee Sudan, along with many of Kordofani’s friends and family.
At the Cannes Film Festival, Kordofani watched helplessly on social media as his city was engulfed in flames. To this day, the war between Hemedti’s paramilitaries and the Sudanese army led by Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has resulted in over 9,000 deaths and more than 5.5 million displaced and refugees. Kordofani lamented, “I felt like I had taken a portrait of Khartoum before it was destroyed.”
“Goodbye Julia” tells the story of two women who are opposites in terms of their origin, skin color, social class, and family background. These two characters are brilliantly portrayed by Eiman Yousif (Mona), a Sudanese theater actress and singer, and Siran Riak (Julia), a South Sudanese model who had never acted in a film.
They transcend their roles as they find themselves at a pivotal moment in their country’s history. The story unfolds on the eve of Sudan’s division, with Mona, a former northern Sudanese singer, caring for the young widow Julia and her son, who are Christians and hail from southern Sudan. Unbeknownst to the unsuspecting Julia, a terrible truth lies behind Mona’s seemingly noble actions, as she comes from the Arab-majority North.
“Goodbye Julia” not only explores the deeply rooted divisions within Sudan but also serves as a testament to the power of cinema to convey the complexities of human relationships in the face of adversity and conflict.