Tired of the violence pitting communities against one another in their country, a group of South Sudanese youth are resorting to telling stories through short films aimed at ending the culture of violence.
Deng Dhieu Garang alias Deng Kabuja, a 26- year -old former child refugee together with four of his colleagues are part of the “Real Game” group that is slowly making inroads in the nascent film industry of South Sudan, churning out films that seek to highlight violence and other social problems including child marriages.
Deng who lived most of his childhood in Kenya returned to the South Sudan capital, in 2019 and slowly assembled a group of ambitious youth who aim to confront the social and cultural challenges facing their society.
“The main thing that motivates me to do this was when I analyzed the situation of my country, I think we need happiness more because we have spent so many years not enjoying the kind of life we are supposed to live in,” Deng told The Juba Echo in Juba during a shooting their upcoming film on peace and dialogue at Sherikat on the outskirts of Juba.
“Most of us we were living with relatives and things were difficult at some point, but sometimes you need to be happy but how do you create that happiness? So I came up with this thing of acting a story or funny clip to make someone happy even if he or she is in stressful mood,” he added.
Deng who uploads some of their films on the group’s Facebook page called real games and trending TV, said their first film “strange in the jungle” aims to the end the culture of cattle raiding, especially among his native Dinka community.
“The main message is that we are trying to show people what causes inter-communal conflict because most of our communities do raid cattle,” he said.
South Sudan has been experiencing sub-national violence caused by cattle raiding and revenge killings in northern state of Warrap, Jonglei, Lakes and Pibor Administrative Area since the start of this year, leaving thousands displaced and several people killed.
“We may have differences in complexion, but what matters most is that we are all South Sudanese and if we are South Sudanese we are supposed to have cooperation to have peace. Now days in South Sudan most of us solve issues by violence and not in a peaceful way,” said Deng.
Deu Dhieu, 26 -year -old film writer with the group said the various cultural norms in the country need to be harnessed to build a united, peaceful and prosperous society, adding that instead the diversity has turned out be the Achilles heel of the country.
“South Sudan is a country made up of 64 tribes with different norms and cultures, but these norms and cultures sometime divide us and this motivates us writers to imagine a society of one culture,” he said.
Dhieu disclosed that the film industry has potential to grow if it is encouraged and supported by the government and development partners because of its role in influencing society.
“There is a future in our film industry because when you look at foreign films like those from Nigeria, India and the United States it shows that they are on a different level from us, but if those people can make it then also us in South Sudan we can make it,” he said.
Deng Matiop, 27-year -old actor said they are trying to bring out the untold stories from the various cultures in order to create national identity.
“In South Sudan, we have many untold stories and we need to tell them out to our people and the world. Basically, we have so many traditions and for us to be known as South Sudanese we have to tell them out through films,” he said.
He cited the cultural challenges in his own community that are holding back women from freely expressing themselves in the creative arts, adding that these need to be dealt away with.
“In my community women are not allowed to act and yet there is need for actresses. This is really challenging for us but we need to change the mindset of our communities on this,” said Matiop.
Ajak Luis, an upcoming actor said that South Sudan needs the creative arts to help bring about conversation on peaceful co-existence among communities.
“South Sudan is a country that has seen war for many years since independence in 2011, people are like living in peace but they are not actually in peace, so we believe there is need to transform the mindset of our people through films,” said Luis.
However, Deng revealed that they face financial challenges and other hurdles to put out films.
He said that to make a short film requires between 2,000 to 3,000 U.S dollars which they often struggle to put together as a group.
“When making a film it really needs sacrifice, time and money because at the beginning you have to come up with a script, do casting to see which character will fill particular role and then production,” he said.
“We also have security issues, shooting a film here in South Sudan is always very difficult for us actors because you cannot go freely on the streets and start setting up camera you know people will just grab you and take you wherever they want to take you. That’s why most of our films are not coming out frequently because we have to go through a lot of documentation to shoot film,” said Deng.
In addition, he said they have to hire equipment for shooting film which is costly since they don’t have their own equipment.
“We hire cameras and these cameras don’t have even lighting. We also don’t have other equipment like sound system and these are essential for film production,” said Deng.