A documentary about four elderly Sudanese filmmakers who try to reopen a cinema and share their love of film in a country where film culture has all but been stamped out.

Ibrahim Shaddad, Suliman Ibrahim, Eltayeb Mahdi and Manar Al-Hilo are the four filmmakers who make up the Sudanese Film Group (SFG) along with Hana Abdelrahman Suliman, the only female member of the group and a woman who is probably half the age of her fellow film fans. Together they try to make their dream of having a space where hundreds of people can watch a film together a reality.

All four of the men in SFG are passionate about film and are well educated in it with some of them having gone to study film in Europe in the 1970s and 80s. Throughout Talking About Trees excerpts of the men’s films are shown such as Shaddad’s Hunting Party from 1964. It’s interesting to learn about this period of film history in Africa, and it’s sad to see how that creativity has faded due to no fault of the Sudanese people.

Talking About Trees is an observational documentary that presumes the viewer knows about Sudan’s history and its politics. Some context would have been good as while the focus is on the SFG and their love of film, the reasons why there are no longer cinemas in Sudan isn’t really explained until the latter half of the film.

The thing that really shines through in Talking About Trees, is the camaraderie between these four filmmakers and their passion for cinema. They face many setbacks when applying for the many different permits and all the paperwork they are told they need to fill in by different bureaucracies, but it never stops them finding humour in the situation. They have fun doing up the old cinema with friends and family, and there’s a real buzz about the idea of having a cinema when they ask local people for suggestions as to what kind of films they should screen.

Talking About Trees is an interesting documentary about the power of film and how a small group of elderly men want to share the medium with as many people as possible. It’s about film lovers and the bonds of friendship you can make thanks to a shared passion. More context and structure would’ve been helpful, and the film does go by at a glacial pace, but it’s still lovely to see a charming and determined group of friends fight for what they believe in.

Rating: ★★★

Directed by: Suhaib Gasmelbari

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