TALKING ABOUT TREES is a documentary film directed by Suhaib Gasmelbari that focuses on four retired Sudanese filmmakers: Ibrahim, Soliman, Manar and Altayeb, as they attempt to restore the forgotten love of cinema. The four men travel the country and show old classic films like Charlie Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES to small communities that long for the chance to see a film projected on a big screen.
The four men band together in an attempt to reconstruct a condemned cinema and show films to the local communities for free. The film showcases their talents as filmmakers through the student projects they produced at university. As they begin the clean-up of the abandoned cinema, it doesn’t take long until they are struck with more obstacles to overcome with the Sudan government’s rules and regulations on film imports.
Earlier this year Sudan saw another type of censorship with the military ordering a block on internet use. The film’s focus is not on the Sudanese government’s censorship but rather how people are dealing with the consequences of the radical ideologies they put upon the people.
What becomes apparent, from the people the filmmakers speak, is an overwhelming sense of community spirit when the town immediately becomes excited at the prospect that they may see a film at a cinema for the first time in thirty years. One example of this is when a youth explains that films are meant to be shared with one another so they may laugh and talk about the film together.
TALKING ABOUT TREES identifies a culture that has been lost in Sudan, it presents the viewer with the idea that films mean much more than products to be consumed but rather an experience to be shared. The four filmmakers passion for the art is admirable as the difficulties they face does not hinder their efforts, it gives their cause a purpose to these people. One line from the film is written by one of their friends in exile that encapsulates their feelings in their country: “They have emptied our lives of substance”.