Scattered Images and Visionworks were asked by the Centre for Foreign Policy Analysis in London, to film Sudan’s first ever elections. Irwin Armstrong and I moved into the country a few weeks before the elections began to get our preparations under way. Irwin is a very experienced Cameraman, who has been filming for over 20 years and in many countries. So as you can imagine, I was very happy to be part of his team.
From a technical point of view, it was by far the most difficult job I’ve ever encountered as a Camera Operator. Africa is a harsh environment to film in, not just due to the extreme temperatures but because of the high contrasts in light and dark colours that you face through the viewfinder. In the South of Sudan in particular, the very dark skins of the African tribes clashed greatly with the sunlight and bright backdrops.
It had been a while since I had worked on the robust and reliable Sony Z1 camera and I was looking forward to using it again, with the added luxuries of a matte box, wide angle lens and a cavision single grip this time. The dust issue wasn’t as bad as I predicted but I always had my lens cleaner and brush handy. One of my pet hates is a dirty lens and I was adamant that my glass was going to be crystal clear before each shoot.
It took me a few days to get to grips with the camera and the settings. Like filming for news, you had to be quick to react to events and changing conditions in light and exposure. After perfecting my iris control and framing subjects on early shoots, I was beginning to feel more confident and slicker on the controls. From a production viewpoint, we filmed in a lot of locations, particularly in the South of Sudan. We were a mobile team and very lucky to be kitted out with a 4×4 vehicle, driver and interpreter. We covered a lot of ground and as a result, we saw and filmed many amazing scenes. On one occasion, we couldn’t access a few voting stations by road so we decided to rent out a boat for the day and pay a visit. As you can imagine, many hadn’t seen white people in person before so we had hoards of curious villagers following our every move.
Unfortunately Sudan is still a very secretive country, particularly in the South, where they still have bans on photographing military installations, bridges, airstrips and prisons. In every State we visited, it was important that we obtained press passes but on a whole we faced little obstruction from the security forces. I learned a lot of from Irwin and my camera skills have moved on to a different/ higher level as a result. The documentary is the final piece of the Centre for Foreign Policy’s report on the elections. Although, there were obvious flaws in the system, the country did extremely well in staging their very first political elections. All eyes are on the Referendum scheduled for next year.