South Sudan’s first International Film Festival: Changing the national cultural narrative. July 5th 2016

*Article from Newsweek By Published 7/7/16 at 9:49 AM

The Juba Film Festival is showcasing the work of local and international filmmakers in a bid to change perceptions of a country that, outside its borders, is largely associated with the horrors of war.

South Sudanese punters flock to a film screening during the country’s first-ever film festival in Juba, July 5. The festival offers South Sudan a chance to create a new identity, according to its organizer.Juba Film Festival/Facebook.

Juba Film Festival – Facebook

The festival was the brainchild of Simon Bingo, 29, a Juba filmmaker. Bingo says that he hopes culture can help the South Sudanese to “find our own identity,” rather than being branded as warmongers. “What we know now is that people are talking of South Sudanese as fighters, war people [who] like fighting, but we are struggling to try to change that,” says Bingo, speaking to Newsweek from Juba.

The festival has a busy program with a series of short and longer films being shown at the Nyakuron Cultural Center in Juba, a theater that Bingo describes as having a capacity of around 900 people and being close to full on Monday.

As well as being enjoyed by their avid viewers, many of the films also touch on social issues relevant in South Sudan. These include topics such as forced marriage— 52 percent of girls in South Sudan are married before their 18th birthday and many of them have no say in choosing their partners—and a practice known as dukhan, found in both Sudan and South Sudan.

For Bingo, the festival provides an opportunity for South Sudan to rebrand itself. “We can sell our country through independent industry, through film, through music, through arts and culture. These are things that can promote the image of the country,” he says.