Dust and Rubies
Director: Hussein Shariffe
Producer: Hussein Shariffe
Year: 1999 – 2005
Runtime: 65 minutes
Language: Arabic with English subtitling
“Abroad being a place in the mind, not necessarily physical
or geographical.” Hussein Shariffe
Throughout the World forces of social criticism and
resistance are shifting. Exiled from the settled and
domesticated dynamics of culture, such energies find their
new incarnation in the migrant. The poet and artist is today
the consciousness of such resistance, expressing its essence
even more succinctly than the intellectual or political
figure in Exile.
Like Pablo Neruda, Aimee Cesaire and Mahmoud Darwish,
elsewhere, Sudanese Poems, such as Mohamed El-Mekki Ibrahim,
Mahjoub Sharif and Jaili Abdel Rahman stand to give voice
and a deeper spiritual meaning to a "culture of resistance".
Comprised of a wide spectrum of artist and intellectuals,
this "culture of resistance" is committed to the ideal of a
multi-ethnic, multi-cultural democracy. Yet the inevitable
head-on clash between the regime and its opposition has
resulted in a tragic exodus of intellectuals and a diaspora
of unprecedented proportions. Those who remained inside are
marginalized, they are virtual exiles in their own country.
Letters from Abroad?
“Letters from Abroad” is a cinematic interpretation of a
group of carefully selected Sudanese poems of exile. Veering
from traditional documentary of narrative genres the film,
in a synthesis of image, music and word, creates its own
hitherto unexplored form of cinematic expression.
Though Letters from Abroad springs from particularities of
the Sudanese experience, the impact of its artistic
expression will nonetheless reside in its ability to convey
some of the broader aspects of the human condition.
Poems by prominent contemporary Sudanese Poems have been
selected to form the basis of this film. Each selection
touches upon the theme of dislocation, and in so doing
ascribes a multitude of societal injustices to authoritarian
Sudanese regimes, both past and present. The poetry,
rendered in their original Arabic form (with English
subtitles) serves as the primary motive for the film's
visual and aural components.
The poems themselves are perhaps some of the best written in
the Arabic language today. They hark to a once glorious
past, yet also deeply troubled present. Mohammed Abdul Haii,
in the Return of Sennar, refers back to the capital of his
imagination – an eye through which he could visualize the
conscious routes which connect the homeland with the place
of exile, "where caravans have inscribed the history of
longing on the winds and the sands".
The Stage of the Film
Letters from Abroad is now in its final stage of editing.
Four hours of filming have taken place. Hussein Shariffe
chose different landscapes within Egypt that felt and looked
close to the homeland, Sudan. Music for the film has been
written by the Sudanese composer Abdel Latif Dirar and some
of the poems have been set to music for singing. All the
poetry has been translated into English by Hussein Shariffe
in collaboration with Professor Paul Starkey of the
Department of Middle eastern and English Literature in
Durham University, England. This will serve the purpose of
subtitling and published bilingual anthology to coincide
with the release and screening of the finished film.
The visual structures of the film are intended to be
interpretive, combining with the music and the Arabic verse
to create a complex metaphor.