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Dust and Rubies is the last unfinished project of Shariffe before his death. Shariffe was very passionate about Dust & Rubies, completing it was his dream. Following his death on the 21st January 2005, his family and a few of his friends have undertaken the task to try and complete the film. This page will provide regular updates on the stage and progress of the film.


Dust and Rubies

Director: Hussein Shariffe
Producer: Hussein Shariffe
Year: 1999 – 2005
Runtime: 65 minutes
Language: Arabic with English subtitling

“Abroad being a place in the mind, not necessarily physical or geographical.” Hussein Shariffe


Throughout the World forces of social criticism and resistance are shifting. Exiled from the settled and domesticated dynamics of culture, such energies find their new incarnation in the migrant. The poet and artist is today the consciousness of such resistance, expressing its essence even more succinctly than the intellectual or political figure in Exile.

Like Pablo Neruda, Aimee Cesaire and Mahmoud Darwish, elsewhere, Sudanese Poems, such as Mohamed El-Mekki Ibrahim, Mahjoub Sharif and Jaili Abdel Rahman stand to give voice and a deeper spiritual meaning to a "culture of resistance". Comprised of a wide spectrum of artist and intellectuals, this "culture of resistance" is committed to the ideal of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural democracy. Yet the inevitable head-on clash between the regime and its opposition has resulted in a tragic exodus of intellectuals and a diaspora of unprecedented proportions. Those who remained inside are marginalized, they are virtual exiles in their own country.

Why Letters from Abroad?

“Letters from Abroad” is a cinematic interpretation of a group of carefully selected Sudanese poems of exile. Veering from traditional documentary of narrative genres the film, in a synthesis of image, music and word, creates its own hitherto unexplored form of cinematic expression.

Though Letters from Abroad springs from particularities of the Sudanese experience, the impact of its artistic expression will nonetheless reside in its ability to convey some of the broader aspects of the human condition.

The Poetry

Poems by prominent contemporary Sudanese Poems have been selected to form the basis of this film. Each selection touches upon the theme of dislocation, and in so doing ascribes a multitude of societal injustices to authoritarian Sudanese regimes, both past and present. The poetry, rendered in their original Arabic form (with English subtitles) serves as the primary motive for the film's visual and aural components.

The poems themselves are perhaps some of the best written in the Arabic language today. They hark to a once glorious past, yet also deeply troubled present. Mohammed Abdul Haii, in the Return of Sennar, refers back to the capital of his imagination – an eye through which he could visualize the conscious routes which connect the homeland with the place of exile, "where caravans have inscribed the history of longing on the winds and the sands".

The Stage of the Film

Letters from Abroad is now in its final stage of editing. Four hours of filming have taken place. Hussein Shariffe chose different landscapes within Egypt that felt and looked close to the homeland, Sudan. Music for the film has been written by the Sudanese composer Abdel Latif Dirar and some of the poems have been set to music for singing. All the poetry has been translated into English by Hussein Shariffe in collaboration with Professor Paul Starkey of the Department of Middle eastern and English Literature in Durham University, England. This will serve the purpose of subtitling and published bilingual anthology to coincide with the release and screening of the finished film.

The visual structures of the film are intended to be interpretive, combining with the music and the Arabic verse to create a complex metaphor.