I couldn’t attend a film festival in Sudan because I was denied a visa. Will governments ever understand national identity?
This week, my film Faisal Goes West, the imaginary journey of a young man from Khartoum to a chicken farm in Texas, screened at the opening ceremony of the Sudan Independent Film Festival in Khartoum, Sudan.
This is the first edition of the festival, and the first of its kind for the country’s talented film community. Faisal Goes West itself is the collaborative work of a cast, crew, and crowdfunding base of 300 individuals across 20 countries, many of them from the Sudanese diaspora. I was not in attendance at the screening because I was not granted a visa by the Sudanese government.
One explanation given was that I was “not of Sudanese national background”. A bit ironic since, after all, this is a visa application process. I have even lived in Sudan before, after growing up in neighboring Chad.
My frustration over the past several weeks has helped me understand the lifelong struggle of my friends in Chad, Sudan and elsewhere to leave their countries for travel, study, or work, only to be denied visas when they try to return for arbitrary reasons.
At a time when global travel is cheaper and quicker than ever and the exchange of ideas can happen instantaneously on a global scale, why do we, and the governments under which we live, maintain such an emphasis on national identity?
Even in the United States, where an emphasis on cultural assimilation insulates many from the multilingualism and fluid cultural identity that defines virtually the entire post-colonial world, the impracticality of defining oneself along national, ethnic, and cultural lines – such as “white”, “black”, “African” and “Arab” – is gaining awareness and provoking the nuanced conversation it deserves.
In effect, taking pride in a national, ethnic, or cultural identity to the point that you consider it superior to that of others, bears little difference from racism. Perhaps a greater question for the future, however, is whether we – as individuals, governments, artists, policymakers – can be comfortable with the inevitable diversity within any number of people, no matter how many ways we try to divide and group them.
I have come to terms with the fact that I will never be fully “American” or “Chadian”, that the Arabic, English, and French languages will always be fighting for my consciousness, and that any pride I take in any element of my self-determined identity is, on some level, elitist and demeaning toward others.
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663875/s/364278bd/sc/40/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Ccommentisfree0C20A140Cjan0C230Csudan0Efilm0Efestival0Evisa0Edenied/story01.htm