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Wednesday 22 October  
Mbale Film Club watches the 'The Great Debaters' at a monthly screening
Mbale, Uganda
Mbale, Uganda

Young movie buffs and great debates at Mbale Film Club

Published on : 7 January 2013 - 6:00am | By RNW Africa Desk (Photo: Joseph Wanzusi)
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Move over, Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood. Uganda may soon feature among the world’s movie-producing countries. Thanks to a new crop of film clubs sprouting around the country, Ugandan youth are now venturing into this untapped industry.

By Joseph Wanzusi, Mbale

Joyce Lilian Mutenyo, a high school student in Mbale town in eastern Uganda, would normally pass her vacation days roaming around with peers. But nowadays, the 18 year old spends her spare time learning cinematography. She is among 100 young people, mostly secondary school students, who have become members of the Mbale Film Club.

The club shows movies and hosts post-screening debates encouraging free speech
The club shows movies and hosts post-screening debates encouraging free speech
It’s here that 13 to 19 year olds can receive training as actors, scriptwriters, producers and cinematographers. Since the club formed in February, members have been meeting at the local Green Gardens Hotel once every two months. Another regular activity is viewing films from around the world that feature young people. Afterwards, they trade comments with officials from the Uganda Youth Cultures Programme in order to, as the the project organization’s website puts it, “empower the youth to express themselves and learn to enjoy their fundamental freedom of speech”.

Just under a year later and the responses have been positive. “The club has helped its members to fight against idleness, watch movies with a critical mind and appreciate the skill of film-making at a tender age,” says Mutenyo.

Culture of responsibility
But according to Hassan Watuwa, another student at Mbale secondary school, the club provides more than an education for cinephiles. Participants learn not just about the media, but the messages contained therein.

“As part of our training in film-making, members wrote a script and later acted a short film titled ‘Nandutu’, which showed how vulnerable a girl child got [from an] unwanted pregnancy that forced her drop out of school,” says Watuwa. Besides sex and education, the film addresses issues such as dealing with the wrath of parents, peer pressure, a backstreet abortion and death.

“The time I have spent in the club has opened my mind to understand issues like reproductive health, human rights, education and writing stories,” says fellow club member Gerald Wooli. He also suggests that this kind of intellectual involvement can dissuade students from participating in school strikes and help them acquire the entrepreneurship skills that may ultimately reduce youth unemployment.

Spotlight on Uganda
According to Youth & Film Uganda's programme coordinator, Denis Pato, although secondary school students are regularly encouraged to become scientists, those with a penchant for the arts lack career guidance. And that means those youngsters who are most likely to engage in Uganda’s virgin film-making industry.

“For a long time, Ugandans have become addicted to Nigerian and other foreign movies, while no efforts were being made to develop the abundant talents of the young people while still in school,” says Pato.

Club members poses for a group photo after a meeting
Club members poses for a group photo after a meeting

On a visit to the Mbale Film Club in late 2012, students watched a screening of ‘The Great Debaters’, a film dealing with democracy issues from a past era in the US. The piece was chosen to show how youth might get involved in the politics of their own country – Uganda being a young democracy. One message that was taken away is that a great debater holds the attention of an audience composed of both old and young people.

Meanwhile, the club has been busy writing scripts for the movies they intend to make before going in for serious film-making with technical guidance from the Maisha Film Lab foundation. Stay tuned. This year the Mbale Film Club hopes to premier its maiden movie.

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AnonymousTUMWA SILVER 25 June 2013 - 11:44am / Uganda

I like the article about the youth and film in Mbale youth and film club
an=m the youth mobilizer for the club and I am highly moved by how much talent the youths are possessing in this regard and how neglected they have been by the leaders and even parents
I have one youth who sings but his parent walks around saying i gave birth to a mad son, this creates/puts the world of parents far from that of youths
instead of parents being near to guide the youths, they create a different world for parents and one for youths hence the more problems youth face
To every parent
the quality of the youths we have are your replica, stay in touch with them and guide them, they will be who you want them be, do not suppress their talents intentions but express concern at least
thank you

JonaKutcher 4 March 2013 - 1:07am

I think the idea on this is really. Good job on this and keep up the good work.

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