The 2012 Amakula International Film Festival has this Monday been launched with a call for more freedom of expression by local filmmakers.
Officials from Amakula Kampala Cultural Foundation, organizers of the annual film festival since 2004, also want it to coincide with Uganda’s Golden Jubilee on October 9.
Nathan Kiwere, the festival’s programme manager, told journalists in Kampala that there is fear among filmmakers and artistes about what repercussions their works might bring should they express themselves on pertinent societal issues.
Kiwere said as a result most filmmakers and artistes are forced to go for productions that attract less controversy, curtailing their contributions to the cultural development of the country.
He said they want the festival, with the theme, “Safeguarding Independence”, to express aspects of whether Ugandans are truly living their independence as they claim.
Kiwere said just like the Hollywood in the US and other western countries filmmakers are free to do whatever they want, in Uganda too they want filmmakers to exercise their freedom of independence without hindrance.
Although Kiwere never cited any specific instances of crackdown on films, there are examples in which the state has come strongly to ban or criticize certain films and their makers.
In 2005, the Ugandan government banned the internationally acclaimed women’s rights film, The Vagina Monologues, claiming it was an affront to public morality and threatened to arrest the promoters if they staged it.
Gay activists in Uganda are also engaged in a cat-and-mouse fight with the authorities keen on disrupting any of their attempts to promote gay activities including films.
Early this year, the government came hard on Kony 2012, a film on the notorious leader of rebel Lord’s Resistance Army, claiming it painted the current situation in northern Uganda in bad light.
A few years ago, popular Ugandan filmmaker Ashraf Semwogerere was kidnapped by unidentified people immediately after screening his new play Murder in the City at the National Theatre.
The play was thought to have been motivated by the grisly murder of Robinah Kiyingi, a prominent Kampala lawyer and head of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International Uganda Chapter.
Moses Serugo, Amakula Kampala’s publicist, said this year’s film festival will have sprinklings of discussions on independence including what independence means for Ugandans today.
Unlike in the past when the festival was a Kampala affair, this year they will extend it to Jinja and Lira towns.