Finalist, Rory Peck Award for News Features

Roopa Gogineni (American)

Filmed in 2016, Sudan

The Rebel Puppeteers of Sudan

Self-funded, with post-production support from Firelight Media. Broadcast by The New York Times.

A long-standing civil war in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan and a government chokehold on media has fueled the creation of a satirical puppet show, Bisha TV, to spread news of the conflict to ordinary people. Ganja, the pacifist son of a rebel commander, travels the countryside with a puppet of President Omar al-Bashir, filming episodes for the popular web series. Roopa’s film weaves together the story of Ganja’s life in the Nuba Mountains, his creative process working under extraordinary conditions, and darkly hilarious scenes from “Bisha TV". In Sudan, a country where journalists are regularly imprisoned and tortured for reporting on wars and human rights abuses, Roopa's films shows how “Bisha TV” is using humor and satire to respond to authoritarian rule and spark a national conversation. 

You can watch the full entry here. 

Roopa is an award-winning director and photographer from West Virginia, now based in Nairobi. Over the past seven years her work has focused on historical memory and life amidst conflict across East Africa. She holds an MSc in African Studies from the University of Oxford, where she researched the construction of media narratives around Somalia. She has produced several broadcast documentaries, and has published photo stories documenting refugee camp restaurants in South Sudan, beachgoers in Mogadishu, and the historic Mau Mau case against the UK government for colonial-era abuses in Kenya. 
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Judges Comments

“With little funding or back-up [Roopa] took a risk making this story. Yet the film’s not about her. We also don’t see the Sudanese as victims. Instead you get a real sense of the community, the land and the people. She allowed the story to be told through the protagonists. It takes a really great journalist to be able to pull that off. She found a way to tell a story that is completely unlike traditional ways of telling stories of conflict. It’s a wonderfully original piece.”