Talking About Trees (2019) Movie Script

Sudan Electricity Company.
Welcome to Customer Service.
It has been four days
since our power was cut off.
Since Thursday.
Should we wait for you or not?
Yes, ok, ok...
How long will it take?
One hour? Two?
What do you mean, you don't know?
So we wait until morning?
We're number 175 on the waiting list.
We're number 175?
Yes, 175.
There's no hope.
That was on Thursday.
By now, we might be number 200
or number 5. Who knows?
It's disrespectful!
No one complains.
The people are subservient.
Watch your step.
Al-Tayeb, move, please.
Dear listeners, wherever you are,
welcome to The Front Page.
The Front Page.
A look into the love of our homeland,
its issues,
its concerns,
its dreams and its future.
The Front Page.
Dear listeners, today's topic
on The Front Page
is cinema,
that beautiful, magical art.
Our title is...
"Sudanese Cinema:
the hero who died."
Usually, film heroes never die.
But in Sudanese cinema the hero died.
We are honoured to have two guests
to speak about this topic:
Ibrahim Shaddad,
the renowned director.
- Hello and welcome.
- Hello.
And Al-Tayeb Mahdi,
the well-known filmmaker. Hello.
The Rope, by Ibrahim Shaddad,
won at the Damascus Festival in 1987.
And the Earth Still Turns
by Suleiman Mohammed Ibrahim
won a prize in Moscow in 1979.
The Grave by Al-Tayeb Mahdi
won the Best Short Film Award
in Cairo in 1973.
Wonderful achievements
in the seventies and eighties.
Now, a renewal of Sudanese cinema
is desperately needed.
What brought about
the death of the cinema,
this dead hero?
We hope for its resurrection.
You talk about "a dead hero".
You can either die naturally
or murdered by a traitor.
The death of cinema
was not natural at all.
It died suddenly.
And the sudden death of a hero
is the work of a traitor.
To find the cause of death,
look for the traitor.
Here where the problem lies.
Is that yours?
An Arriflex lens.
What's this?
Claude Brasseur.
Le Souper.
La Peau Douce.
A 16mm camera.
Oh, Buuel.
What a treasure trove!
All these notes written and accumulated
because of my teacher...
In Germany, during my studies
at the Film Institute.
The teacher urged us all
to note our observations,
to envision things
we needed for a film.
It helped enrich our imagination.
Describing a tree, an alley or a bridge
could help us write.
And I continued in Sudan,
hoping to make films.
Oh, my God!
It's well preserved.
Even the papers inside.
What's this?
The script, I think.
Everything is here:
props, sets, costumes, actors.
All of it.
That was location scouting.
We even took shots of the crocodile.
The film was almost ready
to begin shooting.
Then the military coup happened
and the project was halted.
All that's left now are the photos.
Nothing else.
It all ended there.
In the name of Merciful God,
proud and honourable people of Sudan,
your armed forces all over Sudan,
have taken an oath to protect our land
and preserve its honour and dignity.
Son of a dog!
He almost killed us!
Fix it to the wall.
How do we hold it in place?
Put a rock on it.
Pull it down.
Use the rock to hold it.
Al-Tayeb, help me with the focus.
I think the screen is something else.
This isn't the screen.
It isn't.
Where was it?
There was...
What's the name?
- A winch?
- Yes, a winch.
There was a wire going up...
and it ran up to there.
Come on, jump!
If he reaches the stool,
I'll be impressed.
Do you think we have the capacity
to do the renovations?
Or do we improvise
this first screening?
We improvise.
We rent 300 chairs.
If more than 300 come,
we clean the steps for them to sit on.
Let's agree on one thing:
this first screening is for people.
Could we ask a sponsor
for help with the chairs?
The DAL company, say?
We could ask them for 5,000 chairs.
I want it to be like a heroic act.
No sponsors or advertising,
no speeches or government ministers.
To prove we can do something
without them and in spite of them.
We don't know each other.
I'm Suleiman Mohammed Ibrahim,
from the Sudanese Film Group.
We learned you have a movie theatre
and we visited it.
As you know, cinemas have been closed
for a long time now.
We want to bring them back to life.
We hope you'll agree to allow us
to organize a screening,
or more than one, in your cinema.
No, no taxes,
these are free screenings.
We will take care of cleaning,
chairs, electricity.
You don't have to do anything.
So, that's your final answer?
Okay, thank you, sir.
No hope, Manar.
He doesn't want any trouble
with you know who...
We'll find a solution.
"Do they have all the mice
under their service?
Is every mouse...
a soldier or a colonel
in the Security Services?
They've recruited all animals,
all birds,
and all insects
for the Security Services.
My name is Suleiman El-Nour.
I studied at the VGIK film school
in Moscow,
from 1973 to 1978,
in Roman Karmen's class.
It was a long, long time ago...
My Russian is quite bad now.
I hope you can understand me.
You know, my graduation film
was called...
Africa, Jungle, Drum and Revolution.
I've lost this film.
I've completely lost it.
Unfortunately, there has been
no film production in Sudan...
for a very long time.
This film is very dear to me.
It would really mean something to me
to find it again.
Do you think there is any chance
of finding it in Moscow?
Ok, all right.
Thank you.
I found this artist's studio
when I was preparing my film Africa.
I think this is the girl
who read the poem in the film.
This was my farewell party
when I left Moscow.
Here, I think I was making a speech
about the dreams
that awaited me in Sudan.
I was looking through documents
and I found a bag
where I put my old letters.
In it, I found a letter from Al-Tayeb
from the days of exile.
It's dated October 29th,
That means 20 years have gone by.
So much has happened since.
Our dreams...
Al-Tayeb returned after that.
"I received your joint letter.
It brought back happy memories
of the time we spent together.
Now, ignorant tyrants
have torn our past to shreds
and emptied our lives of substance."
He wasn't satisfied with his job at ART.
"I still work for ART,
desperately trying to escape
the clutches of television.
I'm sick of it
and am looking for another job.
My dream is to return home,
even if I would be impaled with spears."
Al-Tayeb has always been a poet.
"Ibrahim's departure
caused me great sadness.
He left with a heavy heart."
Really, Ibrahim?
At that time?
It's my last one.
Here is a letter from Ibrahim
after he emigrated from Cairo to Canada.
It's dated December 4th, 1998.
"Dear Al-Tayeb, sorry.
The distance grows between us.
I have left Cairo for good.
My hope was to move south."
He means to Sudan.
"As you know,
the old elephants of the savannah
migrate to unknown remote lands
to die peacefully
away from
noise, loved ones and hyenas."
Ibrahim, do you remember
when you left Sudan?
When did you leave?
I left in 1990 or 1991.
You had already been arrested.
Can you tell us about it?
I remember
it was about 8 in the morning.
We were detained in a room
3 x 3 metres.
In it, there was a bench
with a broken leg.
A brick was used to stabilize it.
There was a filthy, old, gutted mattress
on the floor.
When I arrived, the bench was free.
So I sat on it.
Other prisoners were led in.
The room was soon packed full.
10 AM came and went,
then 11, 12, 1 PM, 2, 3...
They kept calling prisoners.
Some came back
and others disappeared.
I was then called
and taken for questioning.
The interrogator was a young graduate
from Khartoum University.
On his desk, there was a book:
History of Modern Art.
His technique was to give you a word
to which you had to reply.
If you stayed silent, he slapped you.
You'd talk to avoid the slaps.
He took what he needed
from what you said.
It was how he obtained information.
"What does Al-Tayeb do?"
"Is Suleiman a Communist?"
I replied, "They're my friends,
but I don't know
their political affinities."
He told me, "We know Suleiman
is a Communist."
I replied, "He's not my friend then.
I don't know him."
You denied me!
"Before the cock crows,
you will deny me."
Then they took me elsewhere.
They kept me on the roof of the building
and they interrogated me again.
There was a dirty toilet
that hadn't been used for ages.
They locked me inside.
It felt like I stayed in there
for years.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5...
34 by...
This screen is 13.5 square metres.
Once upon a time,
in the land of films...
My dear, a young lover replaced you.
Digital technology is the young lover.
Poor film...
So heavy and costly.
The land of plastic bags!
Ibrahim, beware of snakes!
Here's the history of Sudanese cinema.
- Shall I scrub them?
- No, no need.
Pour some water here.
Go get more water, Kid!
I think we should put together
a timeline.
What comes first, what comes next,
set priorities and responsibilities.
- It's a huge task.
- Yes, huge.
What do you think we need?
People to do the job for us!
I'm coming!
He's in this corner because of the water
and the water will drip on his head,
unless he moves.
Will he be tied up or...
Honestly, the idea that he is tied
is the likeliest,
but my idea is he doesn't move.
He chooses to be motionless.
So he's submissive?
He's submissive
without a stick threatening him.
At times like that, you're afraid.
They might rape you or do anything.
Intense fear fills your heart.
Ok, Mister Manar,
we'll take a picture of you.
Try to act like you're afraid.
Head under the tap?
I want you to be under the water.
Ok, I'll sit like this.
I'll move forward a bit...
Like this.
The flow changes every time.
Less water.
Drop by drop...
The dripping drives him crazy?
Need my finger?
You have a beautiful skull,
Mister Manar.
Will your actor have the same qualities?
I doubt it.
Or my patience?
You have the patience of Prophet Job.
I called a Chinese company.
The Chinese came here
and measured the place.
They said it can contain three halls
separated by corridors.
Imagine, three wedding halls...
The Chinese could fit 50 in here.
We cover
the whole theatre.
Downstairs, the wedding halls.
Upstairs, a restaurant
and a wedding accessories store.
A hair salon, a nail salon,
a clothing store,
henna, a photo and video service.
All on the first floor.
The restaurant
would handle catering too.
On the second floor,
there would be rooms...
For the honeymoon.
- They wouldn't go out?
- No need to.
Wedding, honeymoon...
Everything would happen here.
They only leave when they're pregnant!
Does it have a licence?
As a cinema.
It has a licence,
but you'll have to renew it.
Will that be easy?
Just go to the city hall
and they'll renew it for you.
What's the procedure to screen a film?
See the Culture Ministry.
I'll call someone and ask.
Yes, call them, please.
We need some information from you.
They want to screen films
in this cinema for cultural purposes.
No, it will be free.
Without tickets.
No tickets.
So who should they contact?
The city hall?
That's easy.
National Intelligence and Security?
Here comes trouble!
The police down the street won't do?
The local police aren't good enough?
Ok, where?
Ok, all right.
As I said, any unpaid bills
are my problem.
I only charge you for what you consume.
Electricity and water.
I wish you every success.
Mister Manar,
I hope the roots will be deep.
May it be a new beginning
for cinema.
Come and listen, Manar.
"Minister of Culture and Tourism,
State of Khartoum...
Subject: Cultural Screening
at The Revolution Cinema.
Given our mutual interest..."
- "Mutual interest" is ok?
- Yes.
"in reviving the cinema to attract
young people and children,
SFG is organizing
a screening at the Revolution,
District 4, in Omdurman,
on Saturday, March 26th."
"If you accept..."
"In reference to the above,
we kindly ask you
to consider our request
for the Revolution theatre.
Yours faithfully,
Manar Al-Hilo, Executive Manager."
How do I do this?
Hana, could you stamp it and deliver it?
The picture was larger earlier.
It's tiny now.
Maybe we should move further back.
Manar, keep an eye on the cable.
No, a bit more, a bit more...
We need a more powerful projector.
And the screen needs cleaning.
- It's dirty.
- Very dirty.
What about the sound?
We rent a sound system
with big loudspeakers.
I opened their website
and their customer service popped up.
A woman called Elisabeth said:
You should tell her:
Will that one do?
No, we need 10,000 lumens.
Oh! 5,000.
They're going into a lot of detail.
Stars in the sky,
city reflections...
The Internet is cut.
Projectors are not their speciality.
But he said he'll see
if they can recommend a projector.
The best thing to do
is to email them all the details.
He said they specialize in screens only.
How much are their screens?
An astronomical price,
11,000 or 12,000...
No, euros.
What would the Germans do
in our position?
They would have
a special, self-elevating chair.
It would go from left to right,
back and forth, done in two minutes.
Put your hand around my shoulder
to steady yourself.
How can I hold the broom?
The doctor told me
there is no treatment.
But there are injections
to ease the pain.
Or wearing a support belt
could bring you some relief.
But the pain will return
if you remove it.
This is a cinema.
That's the screen to show the films.
Once upon a time, it was crowded,
before you were born.
This is where the audience sat.
And the toilets are over there,
if you need to pee.
This questionnaire
is about the screenings
we want to do here.
Just a few questions
to help organization.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 questions.
The name is optional.
Just circle or tick the answer
that you prefer.
Could you hand them out?
Who did this one? It's a mess.
Some guy who can't write.
It's Issa over there.
I'm being honest.
I've never been to a cinema.
- Should I lie, uncle?
- No, you should never lie.
If it reopens, I'll go every day.
The people cheer!
The people support this goal!
We observe a lot of enthusiasm.
It's great if you reopen the cinema.
Seeing a movie with friends
is better than watching one
alone at home.
You can talk about it
and laugh together.
What do you like to watch?
- American movies.
- Fights?
Amitabh Bachchan.
- Star Wars?
- Salman Khan.
- You like Indian films?
- Yes.
What about you?
Indian, Indian...
I prefer ones in English.
Who'll buy your ticket?
I will!
- You already work?
- They all work.
It shut down because they kept showing
the same films.
Why always the same films?
They were bad films as well.
Why, in your opinion?
They had good films before.
Before, we had
a National Film Institution.
It distributed films to theatres.
After the government shut it down,
cinema owners had to buy pirated films
from street vendors.
Usually Indian films.
That's why they were always the same.
- It was an administrative decision!
- No, a political one.
- The State cut all support.
- Exactly.
What if we screen a film here?
In a few weeks, a month?
What kind of film
would attract the most people?
Action films, I'd say.
People really like those.
It has to be a modern film,
something recent.
Yes, something not too old.
There's an audience for classics,
but start with action films.
After that, you can add other genres.
At what time do we start?
I heard that there are eight minarets
in the neighbourhood
around the cinema.
Each one starts
a few minutes after the other.
Imagine all that sound
from powerful speakers
overlapping one another
for a long time.
How did we watch films
back in the day?
We'd get so caught up in them,
we'd forget our surroundings.
You think that's impossible now?
Back then,
mosques didn't have loudspeakers.
- There were fewer mosques.
- Fewer cars too.
Fewer of everything.
Sometimes, the failures are so great
that hope has to grow.
Times when "talking about trees
is almost a crime
because it implies silence
about so many horrors!"
Can you believe it?
Six mosques!
Six of them!
Is that one deaf
and can't hear the other?
By the time we open the cinema,
there will be two more.
The film will have to start
after the evening prayer.
Just imagine it,
during a scene with a passionate kiss...
"God is great!"
We should pick someone
to stand next to the projector
and cover the lens
during the call to prayer.
He'll keep his hand there
until it ends.
You're the one who can see, we can't.
It's not bad.
It's just a bit loose.
We have to attract people.
"We want to reopen the Revolution.
It's your local cinema."
Something like that.
People will be interested that way.
"Roll up! Roll up!
Come and see the film you picked!"
That way, no one can complain
if the film is bad.
"Pure entertainment,
with plenty of fights!
Django Unchained."
"The passion will set you on fire."
Let's not overdo it...
"Dear friends, we want to reopen
the Revolution Cinema.
It's your local cinema.
We have the film you picked,
a film on the big screen, not on TV!
A new experience! Free entrance!
Before the screening,
from 6 to 7 PM,
a dance group will perform.
The film will start at 9 PM.
Everyone come!"
Can you hear me?
Good evening, everyone.
Neighbourhood residents,
SFG members...
our screening is private.
Soon, God willing,
we will organize a much bigger one,
open to the public.
Thank you for your help
and the hard work you've done today.
Thanks to the people
of the neighbourhood
and also...
Allah is great.
Allah is great.
There is no other God but Allah...
three, four, five...
Let's go.
Thanks a lot. Goodbye.
That was Hana.
When she went for the permits,
they sent her again to National Security.
She went there.
They told her to bring
a copy of the SFG licence.
And also..
To write a summary of the film.
"Are there any indecent scenes?"
"Anything contrary to moral behaviour?"
"Why choose this film?"
"Why this cinema theatre
rather than another one?"
"Clarify all that
to see if we can give you
the authorization or not."
Hana suggests postponing advertising
and halting the procedures.
Once authorization is confirmed,
we can continue.
So we stop everything?
The trouble is, we can't anymore.
We can't just stop.
They'll come and ask,
"Why did you stop?"
If we stop,
they will find it suspicious.
But we're renting this place.
We can't keep renting until then.
They'll ask, "Where's the money from?
Foreign organizations?"
Good afternoon, everyone.
Today is the 8th of Rajab
in the year 1436
on the Islamic calendar.
I hereby announce
the results of the presidential election
of April 2015...
Here are the results.
President Omar Al-Bashir
a total of 5,252,478 votes,
with a percentage of
94.5 % of the vote.
He thus obtained
more than half of the votes.
There were only 5 million voters,
so he got more votes
than the number of voters!
He'll be handing over power
to himself.
Before he hands himself over
to the afterlife.
God is great.
All done, looks good.
I implore God
to grant us stability
and add days to your lives
until we meet again in April 2020
for another election.
We hope for stability for Sudan
and the continuation of democracy.
It's a never-ending story.
I went to see them as planned.
He took the documents
and asked why I'd brought them.
"You asked for them."
"You should have sent them,
not come in person."
They sent me to the morality police
to see a general.
They said he was praying.
After I'd waited two hours,
they told me
he was at a religious lecture.
What a crazy story!
They sent me back
to National Security.
They asked
why we don't use our venue.
I told them, "Our venue
can only host 20 people."
"So you want to gather
a lot of people?"
- That's the problem.
- That's what cinema is for!
They always think it's hiding something.
Be it film or anything else.
The Minister wrote to the Mayor.
The Mayor made a note
for the Executive Service.
And this is their reply.
Right here...
- Notes from four departments?
- Yes.
They also sent me
to Political Security!
I asked them, "What for?"
They said cinema closure
was a political decision.
They admit it was a political decision?
That means...
They admit it was political.
There is no hope.
There will be no screening.
Let's get back to our lives.
We're nearly there.
Just one more metre to go.
One last push...
Come on, comrades!
Get in, Ibrahim.
Let's push from the front.
We need seven more men with us.
Come on, drive!
If someone's in the way, run him down!
Come flying, Ibrahim!
Good evening.
The film we have chosen for you
is from Mauritania.
It's a famous African film.
I hope you will stay until the end.
Where did you get this idea?
Each candle
represents 22 and 1/3 years.
67! Today...
You never expected to reach it.
I thought I'd be alone.
I'll try my best...
I actually managed it!
Happy birthday, Manar.
May you stay healthy
and may we always be united.
Stay together and die together.
Our generation
lived through stormy times.
Colonization, 1st democracy,
1st dictatorship,
2nd democracy, 2nd dictatorship,
3rd democracy
and the on-going dictatorship.
3 dictatorships and 3 democracies.
And World War II.
Someone here saw it!
The first African who studied cinema!
Supervised by Lenin himself!
And Maxim Gorky.
Eisenstein's classmate!
You think I was born a century ago?
Your pal Eisenstein died in 1949!
Where did Suleiman go?
We should have done the screening
even if they shut us down.
Shut what?
The SFG.
No, we don't want that.
Why do you say that?
We're smarter than they are.
Ibrahim, are we smarter?
Smarter, but not stronger.
- Of course they're stronger.
- They have weapons.
We are smarter,
but they are stronger.
Peace be upon you!
We praise God Almighty
for this glorious victory.
By that, I don't mean
the number of votes
or the score I obtained.
No, I thank Almighty God
because the Sudanese People
have given the world a lesson
with these elections.
A lesson in morality.
A lesson in integrity.
A lesson in transparency.
A lesson in civility.
And that's not surprising
for we are the heirs
of a civilization...
7,000... 7 million...
7,000 years old.
I salute our Armed Forces!
I salute
our Rapid Intervention Forces
that hunt down traitors!
I salute the Security Services!
I salute the police that protected
the elections!
I salute you, people of Sudan!
Never ever go for a walk in Africa!
There are sharks in Africa,
In Africa, there are large,
mean crocodiles.
They'll bite and beat you
and do you harm.
Children, don't go walking in Africa.
There is a robber in Africa,
a villain.
In Africa, there is
an evil Barmaley!
Dear people,
residents of block 4.
This is your movie theatre!
With the film that you have chosen.
We will screen it for you today.
Please take note.
The show begins at 6 PM,
with a folk group.
After that, we'll give you time
to go to the mosque
to perform your prayer.
Then come back to this
place of ill repute
to see the film Django.
A film with fights, love and...