Two stars of an offbeat Sudanese love story won’t be attending the movie’s world premiere in Venice Critics’ Week on Friday, with the duo stuck in Uganda awaiting word on their applications for refugee status.
Mohamed Chakado and Kamal Ramadan, who portray young conscripts on the run from the army in Hajooj Kuka’s feature debut “aKasha” (“The Roundup”), arrived in Uganda earlier this year after fleeing their native Sudan. They applied for refugee status in June, but their applications remain in limbo, and the two are unable to leave Uganda.
Producer Steven Markovitz has petitioned the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on behalf of the actors but has yet to receive a response. “We don’t know how long it’s going to take…so we don’t have any timeline yet,” he said.
Chakado and Ramadan are from the Nuba Mountains, the volatile Sudanese region where “aKasha” was filmed. Director Kuka, who was born in northern Sudan and moved to the Nuba Mountains in 2012 to shoot his directorial debut, the documentary “Beats of the Antonov,” met the duo while teaching drama and filmmaking at a local youth center. Both were quickly cast as the male leads in “aKasha,” a quirky love triangle between rebel soldier Adnan (Ramadan), his long-suffering lover, Lina (Ekram Marcus), and his AK-47. Adnan meets reluctant rebel Absi (Chakado) while fleeing the army’s annual roundup of truant soldiers.
Markovitz said the two actors are currently taking English classes in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, and hoping to pursue careers in music and film.
“It is important for artists to be able to share their work with the public, and it is very disappointing that the actors will not attend the world premiere in Venice, nor the North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival,” Markovitz and Kuka said in a statement. “In this time of closing borders, it’s crucial that artists’ work helps to open up understanding of each other.”
“At the Critics’ Week, we firmly believe in creating new opportunities for filmmakers, artists, and films,” said Giona A. Nazzaro, chief of the Venice Film Festival sidebar. “In a time when politics shuts all doors, the Critics’ Week opens all the windows to welcome filmmakers and artists. The only way to protect and serve our freedom is to serve and protect everybody’s rights and freedom. This is our goal. This is our mission. This is why we love and believe in cinema. Today more than ever.”