I am Bisha 2018
Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Roopa Gogineni, Kathleen Lingo, Lindsay Crouse
Directed by Roopa Gogineni
Streaming, 14 mins
College - General Adult
Political Science; Sudan
Date Entered: 02/04/2021Reviewed by Russell A. Hall, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Erie
The former dictator of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir (nicknamed Bisha), is notoriously known for the genocide in the Darfur region of his county and the loss of South Sudan as part of the 2015 settlement that ended the nation’s most recent civil war. As al-Bashir’s dictatorship began in 1989 with a military coup, so did it end in 2019. The short film I am Bisha was released in 2018 and provides a glimpse at a group of rebels who opposed al-Bashir not with violence, but rather with satire.
The subtitle of the film is “The Rebel Puppeteers of Sudan.” This group is made up of the Kauda Drama Collective and Sudanese journalists. They are based in the Nuba mountains of southern Sudan, where more than 4000 bombs have been dropped by the Sudanese military since the beginning of al-Bashir’s reign. The film shows how this group, using a large puppet of al-Bashir, created satirical videos critical of the dictator that have been watched more than one million times worldwide. I am Bisha shows the lengths the group must go to in order to create their videos. Despite living in poor conditions with little to work with materially, the group creatively ridicules and satirizes al-Bashir, though sometimes it seems the entire operation is held together by baling wire. While the viral success of the videos is important, the movie shows that it is much more difficult to get the message of these videos to the people of southern Sudan, who are really the people who need to see them. The group takes their “mobile cinema” on the road to rural villages where there is no cell service or internet connectivity. Members of the collective nail a projection screen into a brick wall to be able to show the videos to the villagers. It is said that not all heroes wear capes, and I am Bisha ably shows that not all rebels carry guns.
While the film is quite good, it would have been more powerful had it been slightly longer. Showing the unexploded bombs and damaged houses is effective in demonstrating what terror bombing can do, but it does not give the visceral reaction needed to really convey the ghastliness of al-Bashir’s reign and why it warranted rebellion.
I am Bisha is suitable for courses on African politics or area studies. It also could be useful for courses focused on dictatorships, rebellions, or propaganda.
Rory Peck Award for News Features, One World Media Short Film Award, Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short
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