Defy the Film: on how to survive in the age of hate speech

Lujain AlSedeg

Since the rise of social media and its dominance in our everyday life, we have been exposed to different aspects of the human nature. We have seen firsthand the creativity and the ability to evolve and change, but we have also witnessed our ability to use these technologies for spreading negativity and hate speech. In today’s world, no matter how filtered our timelines are; we can’t escape the armies of online trolling and rumor spreading. The good news is we haven’t given up on ways to combat these armies, that’s why I was so intrigued when I heard about #DefyHateNow; an urgent community peace building initiative aimed at combating online hate speech and mitigating incitement to offline violence in South Sudan. I was even more excited when I heard about the short film “Defy” which they made as part of combating hate speech through art.

On Saturday the 17th of March 2018, at the House of Heritage –Khartoum, I was in the audience for the first screening of the film in Khartoum.

The film starts with a breathtaking scene from Juba, showing us the small details of everyday life, with its absurdity and realness, we see a couple fighting in the street and a neighbor being bored by what might seem outrageous to any outsider. After that the story begins and we are introduced to the heroes of the story “Software” a young internet entrepreneur and his girlfriend “Hadiya” and how they navigate the world of social media and its dangerous intersection with politics.

From the first moments of the film, you can tell that you are in for a treat when it comes to cinematography. The Director Egily Hakim Egily and his team show us a different side of Juba that we rarely see, and the special moments of chaos at the beginning and the end of the film. You can’t help but notice the amazing eye for details and the beautiful acting performances.

“Defy” does not offer solutions or clean endings, you find yourself asking million of questions once it ends, and it also tells the story in an informative manner that is different from what we are used to in fictional films, nevertheless the film has a strong message and does not shy away from telling it in a very realistic manner.

What’s even more intriguing about this film is that it opens the door for filmmakers and artists to tackle heavier subjects, and to use their platforms to tell difficult stories without compromising the artistic element. At the end of the “Defy” screening, and unlike other films; there was a general feeling in the room that this is only the beginning.