Nothing Happens After Death?

in 70th Oberhausen International Short Film Festival

by Davide Magnisi

Among the films featured in the 70th edition of the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, the intense and engaging Nothing Happens After That (Ba’ad Thalek La Yahdoth Shea’) stood out, starting with the subtle play on words in the pronunciation of the international English title of That and Death. Made by Sudanese director Ibrahim Omar, the film stages a story about how Sudanese refugees in Egypt are deprived of civil and human rights, a story of tragic and mortuary irony about the difficulties of burying a dead child.

Nothing Happens After That had its world premiere in the competition of the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, where it won a special mention of the Jury of the Ministry of Culture and Science of the North Rhine-Westphalia. It is a story that admirably showcases the poverty and desperation of the environments where it is filmed, as well as of the people who inhabit them, with a bureaucracy that remains obtuse even in the face of death.

From a directorial point of view, Nothing Happens After That is almost entirely constructed with fixed camera shots, like continuous paintings, in a montage of dialogues of exasperation for those who do not have the right documents or right nationality and, moreover, die on a public holiday. A child’s body, wrapped in a sheet, becomes an iconic image. The counterpoint that marks the absurdity of any reasoning about missing documents, lack of money, ethnic origin, bureaucracy that fails to understand is death with its silent and powerful language. It is the tragic symbol of a humanity that does not protect the innocence of its future.

For those who do not have the appropriate documents, there is no space even in the cold mortuary and every search for a cemetery to bury the child proves fruitless, in heartbreaking stations of the cross, where no institution welcomes the child’s dead body and the pain of his parents. In the end, the father and some friends empty a refrigerator and, amidst the inconsolable cries of the mother off-screen, they put the child inside, in an emblematic final image of social inhumanity.

Nothing Happens After That is a story of pain and loss; a prayer that repeats itself, becoming a litany; and a metaphorical story of what happens in Sudan, in a double mourning process: when you lose someone, you are exiled to another land of which the person who died is no longer a citizen, but it that does not mean that he no longer lives there. Experiencing premature mourning sends you on a journey towards that no-man’s land sooner or later frequented by everyone, to meet again the shadow of the other, the lost part of yourself.

In Sudan, there is a very serious humanitarian emergency due to the war that broke out on 15 April 2023 (after another long and bloody civil war). It is one of the largest ongoing crises at a global level, also from the point of view of food, which very little is talked about, because in Africa is outside the game of European and global political/military balances. And, as always, it is above all the weakest, children first and foremost, who pay the consequences, with millions of displaced people and refugees.

Director Ibrahim Omar has already made other films, such as Taken by the Mouth (2018), Bani Amer’s Wedding (2019), A Man with Weak Knees (2020), Rokouba Cinema (2023). In a country tormented by war, poverty and desperation, he managed to found the Sudan Film Institute. For this reason, as well as for his visual and narrative talent, he is an author who should be followed and supported.


Davide Magnisi
Edited by Birgit Beumers