Two Ugandan short films, "The Secret Note" and "The Christmas Turkey", have been selected for the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, CICFF, which is the largest children's film festival in North America with a programme of more than 250 films from 40 different countries. The two Ugandan films are, just like all the other films in the festival, competing for the Best of the Fest award.
The two films were produced at Film Labs, organised by the Danish film school Station Next in Kampala and Gulu in 2011, as part of the Danish-supported project "Youth & Film Uganda".
"I think it's amazing that you can gather a group of young people for one week and they are able to create a short work," says Ulrik Krapper, managing director of Station Next. "It’s thought provoking in itself – what makes this even more thought provoking is that these particular young people have had very little media training."
The Film Lab idea in Uganda is about letting young people create their own short stories, with guidance regarding manuscript, shooting and editing from film professionals from Uganda and Station Next. But they were largely responsible for production on their own, reports Ulrik Krapper. The Film Lab programme is running for three years, and based on the experiences gathered over these three years, a concept for a more permanent solution will be devised for the local organization Maisha Film Lab to take over.
Many of the young filmmakers in the Film Lab have never seen a computer before. "Nevertheless they manage to create something. It just goes to show that one should never underestimate what young people are capable of if they are given the right framework," says Ulrik Krapper.
The two films
"The Secret Note" is a story about the student Christopher who is exposed by his good friend for sending notes around in the classroom. Christopher comes up with a clever plan in order to escape the principal's punishment. The film makes use of recognisable situations within the classroom and also tackles issues of friendship and jealousy. Geofrey Ojok wrote "The Secret Note" and Isaac Titus Odokorach directed.
In "The Christmas Turkey", Kim fights to win a football tournament so he can bring the prize, a turkey, home to the family's Christmas dinner and at the same time gain his drunken father’s approval. The film thematises how children and youngsters in Uganda are often forced into adulthood at an early age and how talent and passion can show the way forward. The film was written by Ishamael Mukiri and directed by Reagan Washiwala, who are both teenagers and students in Kampala.
In the Daily Monitor, project coordinator Denis Pato from Maisha Film Lab recounts the enthusiastic responses to the selection for the festival: Daily Monitor – Ugandan films by youths selected for Chicago festival