ACROSS BORDERS. Two films created by young Ugandans, from the Danish-supported project "Youth & Film Uganda", have been selected for the prestigious Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (26 October-4 November). "One should never underestimate what young people are capable of if they are given the right framework," says Ulrik Krapper, who helped facilitate the production of the two films.

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."


Never underestimate

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.

Youth & Film Uganda

"Youth & Film Uganda" is financed by the Danish Embassy in Kampala, and the project was initiated in cooperation with the Center for Culture and Development as well as with the two technical partners, Maisha Film Lab and the Danish Film Institute. The Danish Film School Station Next is a partner of the Film Lab component.

"Youth & Film Uganda" is part of the three-year development project "Uganda Youth Cultures Project", whose purpose is to give young people in Uganda an opportunity to express themselves through art. The project runs 2011–2013 and focuses on three areas: Film, theater, and hip-hop.

"Youth & Film Uganda" is about building a film culture for the 13 to 20-year-old that will help unite the younger population across regional and political divides. Here young people will have an opportunity to see, create, and learn to relate critically to film. The programme combines mobile cinemas, film festivals, and master classes for professionals, talent development and production in collaboration with DOX:LAB, and classes in film production. The latter is in cooperation with the Danish Film School Station Next.

On 9 October Uganda celebrated 50 years of independence from British rule.

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