Jollywood: Move over Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood

Jollywood: Move over Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood

In the world's youngest country, South Sudan, a film industry is slowly taking shape with the appearance of the first locally-produced film, Jamila. Welcome to Jollywood. By Ilona Eveleens

"I am pregnant," states a teary-eyed Jamila. "I'm not the one who's pregnant," replies Juma coldly. "But you refused to use a condom," screams the woman. Jamila and Juma are characters in a movie about how older men use money and connections to get young women in bed.

This story of so-called sugar daddies could have been filmed anywhere in Africa. However the film Jamilia is a pure South Sudanese production, the first of its kind in the newest country of the world that will be celebrating its first year of Independence in July.

From refugee camps to film camp

Jamila is produced by Woyee Film & Theatre Industry, a collective of 70 young South Sudanese. It started with the core of this group in 2000 when they were teenagers in Kakuma, a refugee camp in the north of Kenya.

They had all fled the war between North and South Sudan. Some with their parents, others were orphans or simply had lost their parents on the way to safety. To kill time in the refugee camp they formed a theatre group. When the NGO, FilmAid International, came to Kakuma these teens then got a chance to learn how to make movies.

No money

After peace was established in 2005, the members of Woyee returned to South Sudan but kept working together on theatre and film projects. Some have jobs and others are still students. "It's not easy, because in a new country like ours there is really no money for arts and culture," explains Daniel Danis in the small office of Woyee on the premises of Nyakuron, the cultural centre in the capital Juba. The 300 dollars the collective pays for the office comes out of their own pockets.

Theatre is a good educating tool

"We made no money with Jamila, nor do we get any subsidies from the government. We just try to survive and hope one day to find a sponsor who can help us produce more," says Daniel Danis, a radio journalist.

Woyee does rent out its camera equipment to make some money, but for now they focus on theatre, because it's cheaper than making films or short movies. "We can do a lot with educating the population. There are so many issues we face in South Sudan like violence and HIV. And theatre is a very good tool for this," says Danis.

Watching a movie is a luxury in a country where electricity is scarce. The only cinema in Juba was destroyed during the war. Last year the French cultural centre organised screenings of several European films with a generator-powered projector and an open air screen. Against the backdrop of a huge acacia tree on the premises of the dilapidated University of Juba, the showings were packed every night.

Oscar material

"We will make another film," promises Daniel Danis. For him and the group, the sky is the limit. Their short term examples are the Kenyan and Tanzanian film industries. But in the long run they hope that along with American Hollywood, Indian Bollywood and Nigerian Nollywood, there will soon be a South Sudanese Jollywood. An Oscar could be within their reach.


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