Talking About Trees (2019)

  • Documentary
  • 1h 34m

This film is fully subtitled in English. To view subtitles, be sure to select the “cc” logo in the player during playback to turn on subtitles.

At a time when many of us long to be back in the cinema seats, Talking about Trees, winner of the Berlinale Best Documentary Award, affirms a core belief - in the cultural and politically powerful experience of coming together to enjoy a good film.

For the last 30 years in Sudan, cinema has been banned. After a military coup, cinemas were closed, filmmakers arrested and the careers of four Sudanese friends and promising filmmakers were halted before they began. The freedom to make and share films is their driving passion, and one they long to bring back to Sudan. On a mission to revitalize the country’s film culture, this dedicated group of friends decide to rent a dilapidated, old open-air cinema for a large, free screening of a Hollywood film. But can this committed group of friends pull off their first public film screening in a country where government approval is needed, power cuts are frequent, there is no film equipment, and calls to prayer drown out the sound of the film? This beautifully shot feature debut about the value of cultural history, freedom of expression, and the cultural and political power of being able to see something on the big screen, couldn’t be more timely.

Ticket Price:

  • General Public: $9
  • For Student/ Senior/ Military ticket $8 with code: DISCOUNTTIX at checkout.
  • MOPA Member: $6 with code MOPAMEMBER
  • HRW Member: $6 with code HRWFFSD
  • **Note: ** If cost of a ticket would be a barrier for participation, please scroll down.

Watch at your own pace anytime between Feb 2-Feb 8, 2021, or join us and watch-along before the live Q&A

February 5, 2021
11:25am (PST) / 2:25pm (EST) : Press play and begin watching the film.
12:55pm (PST) / 3:55pm (PST): Grab a quick snack and refill your beverage
1pm (PST) / 4pm (EST) : Join us for the live Q&A on Zoom (RSVP required.)

We do not want the cost of entry to these films to be a barrier for participation in these events. If the price of buying a ticket to this film would prevent you from participating, please email the following address ( + we will send you a free ticket code. We have set aside a set # of tickets per film on a first come first-served basis. Once the free tickets are no longer available, the code will no longer work. For anyone that purchases a ticket, we appreciate your support. Your ticket purchase enables us to make tickets free for those who might otherwise be unable to watch. This also allows the festival to support the filmmakers for sharing their work in our festival to support the arts organizations bringing this work to you and for the festival to cover the cost of hosting the films online.


Arabic with English Subtitles

Bonus Content

42 mins
Q&A for TALKING ABOUT TREES at HRWFF San Diego Digital Edition

A Q&A for documentary Talking About Trees, featuring Mohamed Osman, Assistant Researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division.

During the Q&A we give further background and context for the political background to the film, and highlight the continuing struggles for freedom of expression, preservation of culture and the persistence of artists and activists in Sudan to continue to push for change.

Discussion moderated by Jen Nedbalsky, Deputy Director, HRW Film Festival with introduction by Kevin Linde, Manager and Adult and Digital Engagement, Museum of Photographic Arts.

3 mins
South Sudan: Torture, Abuses by the National Security Service

December 14, 2020

South Sudanese authorities have failed to stem or investigate the appalling abuses by the country’s National Security Service (NSS), Human Rights Watch said in a report published today. Since the outbreak of the civil war in December 2013, the security service has carried out arbitrary and abusive detentions, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and illegal surveillance, with little to no accountability or justice for victims.

The report, ”‘What Crime was I Paying for?’ Abuses by South Sudan’s National Security Service” looks in depth at the patterns of abuse by the National Security Service between 2014 and 2020, and at the atmosphere of fear it creates. Human Rights Watch research identified the obstacles to justice for these abuses, including denying due process for detainees, the lack of any meaningful judicial or legislative oversight of the agency, legal immunity for NSS agents, and ultimately a lack of political will to address these widespread practices. These abuses have left victims with long-term physical and mental health conditions.

1 mins
Sudan: Justice Needed for Protester Killings

November 18, 2019

Fatal attacks on protesters in Sudan in June were planned and could amount to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Sudan’s transitional authorities should commit to genuine accountability for unlawful violence against protesters since December, in which hundreds were killed.

The report “‘They Were Shouting ‘Kill Them’’: Sudan’s Violent Crackdown on Protesters in Khartoum” documents Sudanese security forces’ attacks on the protesters’ sit-in camp in Khartoum on June 3, 2019 and in days following in other neighborhoods of the capital and neighboring Bahri and Omdurman. Human Rights Watch also documented attacks on protesters leading up to the June 3 crackdown and a subsequent attack on protesters on June 30 in Omdurman.

2 mins
South Sudan: Government Forces Abusing Civilians

June 4, 2019

Government soldiers carried out extensive abuses against civilians during counter-insurgency operations in South Sudan between December 2018 and March 2019 in Yei River state, Human Rights Watch said today. The soldiers shot at civilians, looted extensively, burned homes and crops, and chased thousands of residents from their villages. Human Rights Watch also documented accounts of rape and sexual violence by soldiers. “Civilians are being targeted, killed, and raped, as government operations try to root out rebels in Yei River state,” said Jehanne Henry, associate Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “All parties need to put a stop to the crimes against civilians and ensure accountability, while the government should help people regain their homes and livelihoods.” Between March 14 and 21, Human Rights Watch interviewed 72 displaced people in Yei River state who witnessed the government operations in various locations in Mukaya and Otogo counties. Researchers also spoke with ceasefire monitors, aid workers, UN staff, and state government officials including the governor of Yei River State.

2 mins
Sudan: Video Footage Shows Extreme Violence, Abuse

February 11, 2019

Human Rights Watch released a video on February 11, 2019 that shows government forces’ extreme violence and shocking abuses against protesters during weeks of largely peaceful protests across the country. The United Nations Human Rights Council should urgently respond to the human rights crisis in Sudan at its March session and ensure an independent investigation into the violations committed since the start of protests in December 2018.

Video footage, verified by Human Rights Watch, shows security forces driving around in armed vehicles, shooting bullets and teargas at unarmed protesters, and rounding up and brutally beating protesters and bystanders with sticks and gun butts. The footage also shows gruesome, bloody injuries from gunshots; evidence of harsh beatings and torture; and the effects of raids by security forces on hospitals, filling emergency rooms with teargas and hindering medical care

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