Sifinja – The Iron Bride

sifinjade 4. Januar 2010

A film about mobility, human creativity, and technology in a Sudanese truck community. The English Bedford lorry was introduced to Sudan in the late 1960ies. Since then, local craftsmen technically modify the truck into an ideal vehicle, adequate for traveling off-road and for performing customers’ expectations. The craftsmen and drivers call the lorry “Sifinja” because it is soft and comfortable like the plastic slippers it is named after. In different places in Sudan the artisanal carpenters and blacksmiths not only create a shiny iron bride, but they change the whole structure of the lorry through highly unorthodox practices. Following closely the daily work, art and history of truck-modding on the Nile, a fascinating way of African creativity dealing with global commodities – the automobile – is revealed. The documentary weaves the original sound of hammering and sawing, drilling and riveting, into a rhythmic, exhilarating audio-visual adventure.

A film by

Valerie Hänsch

Sudan/Germany, 2009, 70 Min.

Sifinja is not merely one of the best ethnographic films I have ever seen. It is one of the best cinematic treatments anywhere of the genius of cultural creativity, of everyday craft, and of the poetic life of objects – all brilliantly evident in the Bedford-Lorries that link communities and enterprise across the Sudan, like comely iron brides. The product of rare anthropological insight and consummate movie-making, Sifinja provides profound comment on the ways in which African imagination and skill refashion global commodities and all they embody, giving them unintended range, beauty, longevity.

Jean Comaroff

Sifinja is consummate, effortless-looking filmmaking. It makes us intimate with Sudanese men of great spirit and humor who repurpose production vehicles to answer the needs and conditions of their lives. Using wood, iron, and basic tools, they use boundless inventiveness to fashion local beauties, trucks that delight the eye and serve as the faithful, hardy galleons of the desert. By analogy it also shows the connections between family and the resourceful handicrafts, respect for function, and philosophic attitudes that they hand down in their families. The discrimination and inventiveness that once produced the Stradivarius in Italy is today alive and well in Africa. By the end it makes these men as familiar and beautiful to us as our own families.

Michael Rabiger