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Veteran Sudanese actor Nazar Gomaa redefines complex characters in GOODBYE JULIA

Wed 01 Nov 2023 | 07:17 PM
Sudanese actor Nazar Gomaa
Sudanese actor Nazar Gomaa
Pasant Elzaitony

Can intolerance, prejudice, and bigotry ever be dressed up in a classic and elegant bundle that can enthrall and captivate people's attention? Look no further than veteran Sudanese actor Nazar Gomaa’s portrayal of Akram in Mohamed Kordofani’s Sudanese drama GOODBYE JULIA.

Since its commercial debut in Egyptian theaters, Nazar Gomaa's presence in the laureate of the Cannes Film Festival's Un Certain Regard Freedom Prize and Sudan's official submission for Best Foreign Film at the 96th Academy Awards GOODBYE JULIA has produced a surge of fascination and enthusiasm.

With screenings in over 20 cinemas and consistently sold-out tickets, Gomaa's portrayal adds a layer of complexity to the narrative, leaving audiences pondering the nature of bigotry and why so many unashamedly wear it on their sleeve.

In the captivating eight-time-award-winning film GOODBYE JULIA, Nazar Gomaa masterfully portrays Akram — a character who embodies the archetypal image of a toxic Middle Eastern man. Akram's portrayal delves into the complexities of a deeply jealous individual, exerting control over his wife, Mona, in ways that align with his own comfort and desires.

Throughout the narrative, Akram's actions restrict Mona's freedom, whether it be inhibiting her from pursuing her passion for singing, limiting her interactions with new acquaintances, or pressuring her to forgo having children — all to ensure the realization of his own personal dreams.

Gomaa's subtle portrayal brings to life the complicated relationships of power, possessiveness, and sacrifice, engrossing spectators in these characters' inner torment.

While Akram may initially appear as a conventional character, Gomaa's portrayal infuses the role with remarkable depth and raw emotions. In GOODBYE JULIA Gomaa breathes life into the character, elevating him beyond the realms of familiarity found in previous works. It is through Gomaa's skillful interpretation that Akram becomes a multifaceted figure, captivating audiences with the complexities of his persona.

This antagonist goes beyond his original characterization as a jealous spouse. While his acts may limit his wife's independence, Gomaa instills the character with a profound feeling of love and possessiveness towards her. And when all things are said and done, he also emerges as a patriotic figure who is deeply devoted to his country, although at the cost of his empathy and humanity.

Sudanese actor Nazar GomaaSudanese actor Nazar Gomaa

His unwavering belief in his own interpretation of love, loyalty, and religious devotion — even if it may appear racist or controversial to others — adds layers of complexity to his character.

Reflecting on the film, Gomaa emphasized the significance of GOODBYE JULIA as a poignant commentary on the state of the Arab world, describing it as a cry for truth and honesty in societies plagued by deception.

Despite his qualms about portraying such a character, Gomaa feels that cinema is a medium that requires absolute honesty in order to connect with people and that art devoid of honesty is meaningless.

He also highlighted how Akram is a representation of a racist and orientalist archetype colloquially known as ‘Si Al-Sayyid’ in the Egyptian dialect, which — while ultimately flawed to its core — does have its redeeming features; the most notable of which is how it can evoke passionate emotions from spectators, particularly women, prompting a consensus on the kind of behaviors that can no longer be tolerated in a modern society.

At the end of the day, Akram is a sophisticated representation of human nature, forcing spectators to confront the difficult truths and inconsistencies that lurk within individuals and cultures alike, one that Gomaa did justice with his nuanced acting and incisive thoughts.

GOODBYE JULIA follows the story of Mona — a northern Sudanese retired singer in a tense marriage — who is wracked by guilt after covering up a murder. In an attempt to make amends, she takes in the deceased’s Southern Sudanese widow, Julia, and her son, Daniel, into her home.

Unable to confess her transgressions to Julia, Mona decides to leave the past behind and adjust to a new status quo, unaware that the country’s turmoil may find its way into her home and put her face to face with her sins.

Recently, the film has been performing well commercially in Egypt after successfully premiering there on October 25th, starting out with an initial nine screens before expanding to 23 around the country the very next day due to popular demand.

It also won Best African Film at the Septimius Awards, where it was in the running for Best African Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Soundtrack as well.

Beyond that, GOODBYE JULIA has been selected so far at more than 30 festivals worldwide, including Karlovy Vary, BFI London, Melbourne, Vancouver, Warsaw, and Chicago, where it won the Roger Ebert Award.

GOODBYE JULIA stars Eiman Yousif, Siran Riak — the former Ms. South Sudan — Nazar Goma, and Ger Duany; is written and directed by Kordofani; and produced by Station Films’ acclaimed Sudanese filmmaker Amjad Abu Alala — the director of Sudan’s first-ever submission to the Academy Awards YOU WILL DIE AT TWENTY — in collaboration with producer Mohamed Al-Omda, who co-produced Yemen’s Berlin International Film Festival selection THE BURDENED, Yemen’s official entry to the Academy Awards this year.

Sudanese actor Nazar Gomaa