“Good morning my good people. Hope you had a lovely week; welcome to ”The Weekend Show” wherever you are watching us from. Today we have a lot of new things for you, so relax and enjoy. Welcome….”These are probably the words you will hear from Simon Lokwang Paul, as he welcomes you to his Saturday morning television show.
Simon Lokwang Paul aka “Bingo” is just one of the millions of Sudanese who were once refugees and have been repatriated back to Southern Sudan. In a world where most displaced people feel worthless and unimportant, “Bingo” is a living example of a former refugee who didn’t give up. He strived to make his struggle count and his perseverance eventually paid off as he is currently a television producer, editor and presenter. He even produces his own TV program called “Art and Music,” that airs every Friday from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on South Sudan Television/ South Sudan Broadcasting Cooperation (SSTV/SSBC).
In 1998, 13-year-old “Bingo” came to Kenya as a result of the civil war in Sudan, where he was born. He arrived in Kakuma refugee camp in as a refugee, accompanied by his uncle. His birth mother had remained in Southern Sudan as she had little children and a baby. His father and step-mother stayed in Uganda as refugees. As an ambitious young boy, he joined Unity Primary School in Kakuma refugee camp, where he completed standard 8 in 2003. In 2004, he joined Bor Town senior secondary school, also in Kakuma refugee camp, where he sat for Kenyan certificate of secondary education [KCSE]. It was during primary school that “Bingo” developed an interest in filming; as a result of witnessing the mass outdoor evening screenings conducted by Filmaid. He wondered how a person could be involved in, and be seen on TV.
It wasn’t until he completed secondary school that he learnt about Participatory Video Project (PVP), a Filmaid program that empowers youth with knowledge on film making. He joined the program and in 2008, Filmaid hired him as a Participatory Video facilitator; a position given to youths who have mastered the techniques of film making, so that they can teach other PVP members.
What happened next was “more like a miracle,” as “Bingo” put it himself. Chandler Griffin, Filmmaker and founder of barefoot workshops organization teaching filmmaking around the world was sent to train PVP and Bingo was among the students. A year later a couple of journalists from Germany was creating a documentary around East Africa. During their time in Kakuma, they asked him to assist in the productions they were doing. These journalists then realized that he was quite good at operating the camera and video editing. Upon further discussions with him, they realized that besides the training from Filmaid PV program, he did not have any formal training in production. After a few months Chandler Griffin and journalists, they offered to sponsor him to attend the East African School of Media Studies, a Nairobi college specializing in TV and video production.
Just within his first few weeks of college, he was already the best and most active student in his class, making the lecturers very curious to know more about him. When he discussed his experience with Filmaid’s PVP in Kakuma, his lecturer explained to him that what he would be learning in his first year of college, was already taught to him by Filmaid. The lecturer then advised him to withdraw from the first year class and go straight to the second year class; which he did with the help of the lecturer who facilitated the movement.
Upon graduation in June 2009, Bingo was among the top students of his class and he received a diploma in television and video production. In July of the same year, he was repatriated to South Sudan. Just 2 months after being in his home of origin, in September 2009, he was offered, and accepted a job with SSTV/SSBC; this was all through his hard work and determination, along with the good recommendation given by Filmaid. He currently produces and hosts his own music television show called “The Weekend Show” on the station owned by the South Sudanese government.
In 2013 Bingo directed and acted in a short film entitled “Dowry of life”, and was awarded Special Filmmaker Award at XXVIII. Black International Cinema Festival Berlin, Germany
In 2011-2012 he worked on the film “WE COME AS FRIENDS “with the Oscars-nominated film director Hubert Sauper. He was then invited to the grand premiere of this movie at the Berlinale Film Festival, where he gave talks and interviews together with Hubert Sauper. The movie’s website is www.wecomeasfriends.com Bingo is also the founding Director of the Juba Film Festival and Juba films limited
In his parting words, Bingo encourages all refugees not to give up. “You are a refugee by condition. Accept that you are a refugee, but know that it is not permanent. Keep hope and know that one day, one time you will go back to your country,” he said in his message to refugees. He continued to encourage refugees to take whatever opportunities that come their way, however small by saying “when small chances come, take them seriously because you never know what opportunities it might bring you in future.”