Society & Culture

Goodbye Julia First Sudanese Film to Screen at Cannes Film Festival 

Sudan Events -Report: Haffiya Elyas 

“Goodbye Julia”, the first-ever Sudanese feature to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, has been selected by Sudan to represent the war-torn country at the Academy Awards in the Best International Film category.

“Goodbye Julia” is only the second Sudanese feature film to be submitted for selection at the Academy Awards, after Amjad Abu Alala’s 2020 movie “You Will Die at Twenty”.

The film is set in Khartoum in the years leading up to South Sudan’s independence referendum in 2010, following another grisly civil war, this one between North and South. It explores the troubled coexistence between unequal communities in a society blighted by racism and divided along ethnic and religious lines.

The great divide is portrayed through two households, starkly unlike in fortune: one Muslim, Arab and well-off, the other Christian, Black and poor. The titular character Julia (played by Siran Riak) belongs to the latter, though the film is really about the wealthier Mona (Eiman Yousif).

Historical Background

Sudanese filmmaker Mohamed Kordofani lives in Bahrain and works as an aviation engineer.

For years, Kordofani led a double life. He would use his annual leave and dip into his savings to make short films, screening them for the local community to great acclaim before traveling back to his workaday life in Manama. By 2020, he realized he had to make a choice: continue with the life that had been prescribed him, or follow what had become his passion. He chose the latter.

By that time, his efforts to make “Goodbye Julia” were well underway. The idea had come to him at home in Bahrain one night, as he and his wife argued over whether they should get a live-in maid to help around the house. The idea repulsed Kordofani.

Among other project development grants, the film received support from the Beirut-based Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC), the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt, the Swedish Malmö Arab Film Festival and the Red Sea Fund in Saudi Arabia.

Main roles were played by Sudanese singer and actress Eiman Yousif and Siran Riak, a former Miss South Sudan and fashion model born in today’s South Sudan, who never before acted in a film. – Commenting on the social context of his film, Kordofani said

“The racism that was practiced for many decades from most Northern Arabs, government and people, was a major reason for the southerners choosing to secede. I consider Goodbye Julia a call for reconciliation and a spotlight on the social dynamics that led to the separation of the South.”

The film was produced by Dubai-born and -based film director and screenwriter Amjad Abu Alala, whose 2019 drama film “You Will Die at Twenty “ won the Lion of the Future Award for best debut film at the Venice Film Festival as well as the Golden Star for best narrative film at the El Gouna Film Festival. Further, this film was Sudan’s first ever submission to the Academy Awards.

In September 2023, Goodbye Julia was nominated as Sudan’s candidate for Best International Feature Film at the 96 Academy Awards, but was ultimately not given this award. On October 25, it was launched in 20 Egyptian cinemas.


Mohamed Kordofani’s Sudanese drama, Goodbye Julia, has shattered records in its first commercial release, amassing an EGP 1.02m ($0.033m)in revenues just one week after its Egyptian premiere on October 25.

The film is also set for a wider release across the Arab World soon, with the film expected to hit the GCC before being released throughout the region. Additionally, Goodbye Julia is slated to release in France on November 8 through its French distributor ARP Sélection.

Previously, Goodbye Julia was selected as Sudan’s official submission for the Best Foreign Film category at the 96th Academy Awards. The film also won the Septimius Awards, clinching the title of Best African Film and competing in various categories, including Best African Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Soundtrack.

“I feel immensely honoured and very happy that the film made it to Cannes, and it’s such a great reward to all the crew and the cast, and myself included,” he told Reuters on Monday.

“But at the same time, I feel really bad … I walk the red carpet while people are running away from bullets and bombing.”

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