Camera man, producer, director and photographer (1921 – 2008)
The work of the Sudanese film maker Gadalla Gubara spans over 50 years. He was the cameraman who filmed Sudan’s independence and directed the feature film TAJOOJ (1979). Until he passed away, he ran the private cinema studio ‚Studio Gad‘.
Gadalla Gubara was born in 1921 in Sudan. He grew up in a very modest family and as a young man, Gadalla worked as a waiter. During his shifts, he loved to observe the clients, imagining them as actors in a theatre play and learning lessons for his life from them. He also had to take many jobs, like working as a newspaper seller and construction helper. These experiences permitted him to have a spirit of endurance, supported by the education of his mother, who taught him self-dependency.
Discovery of the cinema
During the Second World War, when Sudan was still under Anglo-Egyptian rule, Gadalla was hired as an officer in the Signal Corps of the Sudan Defence Force. He served in El Fasher and East Africa. Due to Gadalla’s good knowledge of English, he was assigned to project films for the soldiers. This opened the way for him to discover cinema. Gadalla was so impressed by the way the moving images reached out to the spectators, that he decided to work in the field of cinema.’ His thirst for knowledge took him to Egypt, where he worked in the field of sound. Afterwards to Cyprus and London, where he received different trainings for photography and camera work. Finally, in the 1960s he studied film production in California, United States.
The Sudan Film Unit
During the colonial times, from the 1950s onward, Gadalla was hired in the Sudan Film Unit. At the time, only three people worked in the Unit: The manager, a British man from South Africa, the script writer and film director Kamal Mohamed Ibrahim and Gadalla Gubara who specialised in camera work. Television had not yet started in Sudan and Gadalla and his colleagues produced newsreels, which were shown in cinemas before the main program and in mobile cinema screenings.
Just before independence, the Sudan Film Unit was put under Sudanese management and Gadalla continued his work as a camera man. Finally, on January 1, 1956, the British and Egyptian flags were lowered and the Sudanese flag was hoisted. Gadalla Gubara lead the camera for the documentary “Independence”.
„The greatness and beauty of the scene made me forget why I was there. I just watched with my eyes and I forgot that I had a camera. Suddenly, I came back to reality and saw that the two flags were being lowered, I started to film the scene and the moment when prime minister Azhari hoisted the Sudanese flag.“ Gadalla Gubara
Since his studies in the US, Gadalla had dreamed of directing narrative films. He wanted to import his own camera, but soon he learned that he was obliged to own a cinema studio in order to buy one. When all the paper work was done, he had only two weeks to find the premises. He chose a space of empty land, which was situated on the outskirts of Khartoum. At the time, the area was still considered to be unsafe. Yet, Gadalla Gubara continued with his project and in 1970 the corner stone was laid for the private cinema studio ‚Studio Gad‘ , which he actually built himself.
From here he continued his work as an independent producer and directed image films, educational films and advertisings. He also realised his dream to produce feature films and among other works directed the film “Tajooj” based on a famous Sudanese love story, set in the Eastern desert of Sudan. It was his last film, an adaption of the classical novel „Les Miserables“ by Victor Hugo, which might have been the most impressive of his works by circumstances. Gadalla directed the film in 2007, after he had already lost his sight. During the shoot, his daughter Sara Gadalla acted as his eyes: While Gadalla imagined the scenes, Sara looked though the view finder of the camera and told him, if she could see what he imagined.
Family and films
Gadalla has been described as a real family person, who loved to take more than 20 of his grandchildren on excursions in a convertible beetle Volkswagen. His family members also often collaborated in his film productions, behind the camera, making titles or animations. Some of them starred also in his films and advertisings, like his daughter Sara Gadalla. Today many of Gadalla Gubara’s children and grandchildren still work in the media industry and are carrying on his legacy.