Directed by: Mohamed Kordofani
Written by: Mohamed Kordofani
Starring: Eiman Yousif, Siran Riak, Nazar Gomaa, Ger Duany
Released: April 4, 2024
Grade: A-

Goodbye Julia

Last year, Goodbye Julia became just the second film from Sudan to be submitted to the Oscars for consideration in the Best International Feature Film category.  It wasn’t nominated (nor did it make the shortlist) but it’s still a terrific movie which reminds us of the creative talent which exists in countries not widely known for their film industries.  It was selected for the Un Certain Regard section of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival (won by the recently released How to Have Sex) which itself is a huge honour.

It’s a film to be celebrated for two main reasons.  Firstly, it raises awareness about Sudan’s politics and people.  It covers a period from 2005 to 2011 in which there was much division between the northern part of the country, largely Arabs and Muslims, and the southern part, mainly African and Christian.  Conflict between the sides had existed for decades and it led to an independence referendum where voters decided to split the nation in two.  Early scenes highlight the key themes of the time including a significant wealth disparity, and ongoing fears of violence.

The second justification is because it tells a bloody good story.  Writer-director Mohamed Kordofani frames the narrative around two families who come together under tragic circumstances.  Mona (Youstif), a wealthy Muslim from the northern half of Sudan, accidentally hits a young boy with her car while driving by an impoverished shanty town.  She panics, drives off, and is then followed by the father of the boy who angrily pursues on his motorcycle.  On arriving home, Mona’s husband is waiting out front and, not understanding the situation, sees the aggression of the father and kills him with a recently purchased gun.

What follows is a rich, complex story of lies, forgiveness and redemption.  Mona doesn’t tell her husband why she was being chased so that he’s not burdened with the guilt of killing an innocent man.  Suffering from her own remorse, she reaches out to the wife (Riak) of the deceased man and offers her a job as housemaid.  Both she and her son (who survived the accident with just minor injuries) are also offered a place to live in a shed adjoining the house.  The catch is that only Mona knows about her husband’s involvement in the shooting.

It may sound contrived but Goodbye Julia works as a riveting drama.  In telling lies while trying to atone for her own mistakes, Mona digs a metaphorical hole from which it is near impossible to extricate herself.  She makes for a riveting character study.  Mona becomes close friends with the mother and extends her a financial lifeline…  but can she be considered a good person if this connection is based on such a large deception?  Mona’s blindsided husband develops his own meritorious interpretations of his wife’s strange actions.

The acting is a touch stiff in places but that’s a minor quibble given the strength of the script and direction.  Goodbye Julia deserves your time and attention.