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Drought, Sharia: Extra Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Movie Critic Review

"All cinema is Political" Costa Gavras.

If you have not yet seen any of the short movies made by one of the
leading African filmmakers, then here you are!
A shared copy of roughly the 27 minutes that the movie spans!
Our admiration and respect go to Mr. Ibrahim Shaddad, the filmmaker.
It is needless to ask if you have had enough of African cinema!

Short Movie: Insan (Human Being) 1994.


A herdsman, obviously not poor, is forced to move away with his family and cattle toward the big city to avoid perishing from the drought which stroke his natural Bedouin habitat in sub-Saharan west Sudan, Africa. En route, he loses to death from thirst, his family and all but one cow left from his cattle.
In the unwelcoming city, where the man is stunned by the abundance of water for him and his cow, life turns to be harsher than the drought in that his kind of people is not able to fit and sustain himself through a job. He is completely marginalized and excluded. All he has access to is water for him and his cow. One day he loses his cow but, thanks to his natural sense of tracking, he is able to find where it went. In fact the cow was removed by the authorities as a neglected animal. Without proper or legal procedures he enters the place and takes his cow. But, of course, he gets arrested and summarily sentenced to a fierce kind of punishment that makes him all the more unable to work and carry on with his life.
The movie is set during the drought episode of 1979-1984 in Sudan which coincided with the enforcement of an Islamic Sharia law by the already dictatorial regime in Sudan. It therefore depicts the wrongfulness of bodily punishments especially in a country where development and growth of economy have been arrested by a despotic regime.


There is no dialogue in this film but there are certainly many visual and sound pleasures. The noise of the big city merges nicely with natural singing sounds and is complemented by a beautiful musical score based on western Sudanese music.
There are several hilarious moments in which juxtaposing the facial register of how this sweet illiterate person interacts with things and people in the reality of the big city, creates rewarding cinematic experience. There is also a fleeting attempt at some erotic shots, if you will. Elements that secure success to the movie are: the catchy and memorable music and the solid and unforgettable acting by the main character. But, above and over all, is the ingenious way the movie tells the story and the sensational editing.
At minute 15:03 of the video the roar and formidable noise of a machine in the desert reflects the indifference of modern devices to the simple basic needs of drought-stricken human beings and though it is a kind of a drilling machine it is completely futile towards quenching thirst. Further more, it constitutes a signal of a foreboding alliance between drought and intentional design to neglect basic needs for more lucrative schemes such as drilling for oil in the sands. The starkness of the scene is augmented by two horizontal shots in which the machine, appearing vaguely fearful, equates with human presence but does not seem of value to it. These machines with their enormity and noise do not serve the simple needs of human beings around them. At minute 24:43 and on, to the dismay of our thirsty protagonist who awaits it in a worshiping gesture, the pipe oozes blood and gore, not water!
The blood is a reference to civil conflicts and wars afflicting the area.
Although the story is a steady following of the happenings in the life of a single person yet the way it is written, a circular way, employs bold cutting to flashback and forward. Editing here is the cinematic equivalent to 'cutting' in the general meaning and sense of the word and conveys well the filmmaker's reaction and deep concern about the shocking punishment his character is subjected to. It resembles the reliving of a trauma.

Final Note

Insan which premiered at the Alexandria Film Festival was screened, thereafter, in many festivals around the world. It is considered by many critics as one of the important examples of experimental cinema.

Mustafa Mudathir
Sep 10 2013


Short Movie: Insan (Arabic for Human Being) 1994. Colored. 27 min
Genre: Experimental/Feature. Sudan (flashing.)

Film Specifics:

Language: No Dialogue.
Story by: Ahmed Gabbani
Screenplay: Ibrahim Shaddad
Photography: Salah Sharief.
Editor: Mohamed M. Ali
Music: Osman el Naw
Directed by: Ibrahim Shaddad.
Cast: Rashid A. Eisa, Umayma.


  1. Very interesting short film. One thing I had a hard time understanding, which was; in the start of the film when he was swimming and seen someone stealing his clothes, why was his hand cut off? Is this a symbol for active sharia law in play?


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