‘Goodbye Julia’ from Sudan is a domestic drama focused on two women who find their country at war. Innocence is the first thing lost and survival becomes the sole focus.
There are universal truths that are instantly recognisable in ‘Goodbye Julia’. Loveless marriages, class structures and the longing to find your voice in a complicated world. The fact that Sudan’s recent history is being told from voices within the country gives it a freshness and authenticity that has captured the attention of the world with ‘Goodbye Julia’ being the first Sudanese picture to be presented in the Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival.
Director Mohamed Kordofani, a Sudanese northerner who now mostly lives in Bahrain, went, and shot the film in his homeland. Weeks later with the score being recorded in the capital city of Khartoum, civilians and military clashed on the streets outside.
While national strife informs everything within the story, at the heart of it is just two women making choices driven by their own desires for a certain kind of peace. They form an unlikely bond, an Arab upper-class northerner named Mona and Julia, a southerner, Mona hires as a domestic servant out of guilt. Mona is not hurting for money, married to businessman Akram who has standing in their community. He is ever dutiful to his faith, his wife, and his neighbourhood. He just won’t broach the idea that what he has built his life around may not be right or true.
Mona is living a lie – more than one, and will discover that the truth will set you free no matter how hard it is. This is the reality that Julia knows all too well and the lesson she has to impart.
Mohamed, who is an aviation engineer, has slowing been building his filmmaking skills the past few years to make this – his first feature. He proves a steady pair of hands with some tense action in the first act. For the most part, though, he observes these two women gradually build a rapport in quiet scenes where they feel each other out.
Former Miss South Sudan and model Siran Riak gives Julia a quiet dignity and a strong presence. Eiman Yousif as Mona is a stand-out, conveying an inner turmoil that she finally addresses. The generosity between the two actors is a joy to watch. They are ably backed up by Nazar Gomaa as Akram.
This stunning debut from Mohamed Kordofani suggests a new era of filmmaking is possible from Sudan. It is true that this is a movie about heavy subject matter, but it proves uplifting at the same time. . . If these two women can find friendship, then maybe there is a hope for us all.