Suzannah Mirghani: The Gifted Bicultural Independent Filmmaker, Writer, and a Researcher Who is Visualizing The Sudan Captivating Experience
A woman of bicultural Sudanese and Russian backgrounds, Suzannah Mirghani is an independent filmmaker, a writer, and a researcher. READ MORE
Having graduated with degrees in media studies and museum studies (from University College London Qatar), she uses her work to call attention to different stories in the Arab world. Coming from mixed racial and cultural backgrounds, Suzannah is interested in exploring the complexity inherent in the notion of identity.
The filmmaker has worked on several projects examining deep-rooted issues related to identity in the Arab world, with a focus on Sudanese women. Suzannah worked as a writer, director, and producer (with Eiman Mirghani) for her award-winning film Al-Sit released in 2020.
Wielding her talent, Suzannah wrote, produced, and directed multiple projects and won numerous awards for her films. Much of her work reflects the stories and fables she heard as a child in the hope of creating films that departed from the real world, allowing audiences to experience something unique. Suzannah takes charge of multiple roles when making her films, and engages in all the processes that go into filmmaking. By involving herself fully, Suzannah has experience in every stage of the filmmaking process, which is proven by her work that gains new heights every time she releases a new film. Her works include Hind’s Dream, Caravan, There be Dragons, Al-Sit and Virtual Voice.
Hind’s Dream (2014)
Released in 2014, Hind’s Dream is a short film Suzannah wrote, directed, produced, and edited. It is the story of a Bedouin girl, Hind, who spends her time alone in a tent while her husband is away hunting. In the film, the girl dreams of wandering alone in the desert, where she meets an oracle and catches glimpses of a future Doha. The film premiered at the 2014 Abu Dhabi International Film Festival and won an award for Artistic Vision at the 2014 Ajyal Film Festival.
Caravan was another short film written, directed, produced, and edited by Suzannah as part of a Doha Film Institute short filmmaking workshop. The film was released in 2016 and premiered at the Ajyal Film Festival. It presents a group of people who communicate through their subconsciousness while navigating a Doha Traffic jam. The term caravan describes ancient Middle East travelers on camelback, which in this film is paralleled in present-day traffic routes.
There be Dragons (2017)
Suzannah continued to work on the project after project and, in 2017, went on to work on an experimental short film, “There be Dragons”. Here, her film examines Doha, one of the world’s wealthiest cities, and its progress towards automation. As the film goes on, the visuals reveal a quirky alternative side to Doha with Suzannah’s twist.
Suzannah wrote, directed, and produced Al-Sit in 2020. The story revolves around a 15-year-old girl who has a crush on a village boy, however, her parents have already arranged her marriage to a Sudanese businessman living abroad.
The film went on to gain multiple awards and became a globally recognized and appreciated the film.
Al-Sit reflects issues that are deep-rooted in the culture of Sudan, including the common practice of arranged marriages in which the grandmother, the character of Al-Sit, wields power in making these decisions. From her memories of growing up in Sudan, Suzannah observed similar situations happening around her as a cultural norm. She was fascinated by how all the household members would obey the older woman of the house, regardless of her decision.
Suzannah, with her films, came to be part of a new wave of films that are locally produced and tell stories deep-rooted in Sudan. With the decline of Sudan’s film industry, following years of military rule, this new wave of films attempts to get the industry back up on its feet. Through her films, Suzannah spins her take on the male-dominated cultures of her country by focusing on stories about women and girls.
The Doha Film Institute, Highlight Productions, On Set Team for Media Production and Sudan Film Factory supported the film throughout, providing her with the resources to ultimately deliver the message to her audience.
Al-Sit went on to grab multiple awards. At the 2021 Tampere Film Festival in Finland, Al-Sit bagged the Grand Prix Award. This automatically qualifies the film to be considered for the short film category leading up to the 2022 Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. At Clermont-Ferrand, the world’s biggest film festival for short films, Al-Sit went on to win the Canal+ Award in February 2021. At the European Independent Film Festival in Paris, this short film managed to win the Excellence in Women’s Filmmaking Award and a special mention at the Malmö Arab Film Festival.
Throughout her filmmaking career, Suzannah has been engaged in all stages of her films by producing, directing, writing, and editing her work with the support of the Doha Film Institute. Her experience in the field and her partnership with the Sudan Film Factory and production crews in Sudan, including Highlight Productions and On Set Team for Media Production, as well as post-production professionals in Qatar, saw Al-Sit win awards and qualify for Academy Award consideration. This is an achievement that only goes to show Suzannah’s hard work and dedication to her craft, with the support of her cast and crew.
Suzannah Mirghani Instagram: @suzannahmirghani
Credit: Tariq Mohamed Al-fatieh (Cover photo)