Talking about trees

Artists in resistance

  • Films
The 2022 archive


In Sudan, where freedom to create is severely limited, four friends dream of the films they’ll never make and try to renovate a theatre. A love letter to cinema and a thrilling documentary.

Talking about trees © AGAT Films & Cie


ARTE, the European public culture channel, celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2022! Aiming to bring Europeans closer thanks to culture and to innovative programmes that encourage reflection, it is more necessary than ever. To understand the great upheavals our world is facing requires analysis, decoding, and contextualising. It is in that state of mind that ARTE is supplementing the programme of the Festival d’Avignon with a series of screenings at the Collection Lambert dedicated to politically-committed artists.

Ibrahim, Manar, Soliman and Altayeb are all filmmakers who have been forbidden from making movies. The long-time friends are trying to make an old dream come true: to revive cinema in their native Sudan, a totalitarian country where the austerity of religiosity is on the rise, encouraged by the regime. In spite of the censorship of dictator Omar al-Bashir, who ordered the closing of all cinemas in 1989 (and would later be deposed in 2019), the members of the improbable Sudanese Film Group want to make films once again accessible to the public. Braving interdicts, sandstorms, floods, and constant power shortages, they drive across the country in their van, hoping to raise the funds necessary to renovate a dilapidated cinema. To buy a screen that can withstand the wind and to organise a public screening in Omdurman: what better symbol for the fight for freedom for future generations?
Directors deprived of any equipment in a country that forbids them from practicing their jobs, the four friends know how to keep their passion burning: they play out scenes they will never be able to shoot. They climb up a fictional crane, mime the movements of an imaginary camera, and direct phantom actors. This “cinema of words,” as they ironically call it, feeds their passion for telling stories and the power of their imagination. Through those symbols, Ibrahim, Manar, Soliman and Altayeb take revenge on a despotic regime trying to smother freedom of expression the same way one unplugs a spotlight.
A masterpiece of direct cinema, shot among the protagonists and their irresistible activism, Talking about Trees oscillates between fairy tale and documentary with a sprinkle of fictional elements, with always in the background this disastrous political situation. A film about an irreducible and uncontrollable desire for cinema, and the happiness of showing.



Documentary by Suhaib Gasmelbari (France/Sudan/Germany/Chad/Qatar, 2019, 1h33mn)
Audience Award and Best Documentary, Berlinale 2019

Presented by Marie Labory (ARTE Journal)
Followed by a meeting with Marie Balducchi, productor of the film.


Production Agat Films & Cie, Goï-goï productions, Made in Germany, Filmproduktion, Sudanese film group, Video de poche, Doha film Institute

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