Budding Ugandan film director, Jayant Maru, has succumbed to public pressure and reedited his film, The Route, to make it more viewer-friendly.
The feature film about human trafficking and sex slavery premiered to rave reception and critical acclaim in July, but raised some hairs for its lengthy depiction of rape and violence scenes.
Maru was however quick to defend it, explaining that every single scene therein, however much disturbing it might be, was justified.
“I was only being honest to the story. This is the kind of suffering the girls are subjected to,” said the 23-year-old filmmaker, revealing he first conceived the idea in 2011 while working on his thesis at the acclaimed London School of Economics where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Law.
Many critics shared the same sentiments, pointing to an inevitability to expose social evils in an attempt o solve them. Such iconic films as The Passion of Christ and Requiem for a Dream have previously used this approach to drive a positive message home.
The $5,000 (about Shs13m) self-funded production budget feature, went on to hold two quick successful shows at the National Theatre before being submitted into the recently concluded Uganda Film Festival (UFF) where it came close to winning the Best Feature Film award.
Even the Film Classification Secretariat (FCS), usually known for taking a tough stance on films of The Route’s nature, surprisingly hailed it for its superb treatment and handed it an 18 rating.
For some strange reason however, Maru has gone ahead to reedit his film, messing it up in the process. Audiences who watched its latest version at UFF were in fact disappointed.
Even Maru, who hails from an affluent Indian-Ugandan family and is taunted as Ugawood’s next big star, looked dismayed watching the mess he had done to his ‘baby’, a masterpiece upon release but now fraught with jump cuts, sync problems, and a distorted sound.
“Some people in the industry advised me to cut out some scenes if I am still interested in taking the film to TVs and international festivals,” Maru lamented.
From the look of things however, The Route may not be crossing any boarders, and Maru might live to regret the decision he took.
His film’s original version had a definitive and well-treated last scene featuring a wordless sadomasochist as he abuses lead character, Samantha (Played by Sharon Detoro). It reduced audiences to tears at the premiere.
The scene surprisingly suffers the greatest brunt in the film’s new version – it has been chopped, blurred and given a voiceover in an apparent attempt to mitigate moral corruption.
Several other important scenes were given a similar treatment, making the film’s new version appear more like a rough cut of the original, which was a serious social critique.
And Maru, whose next project is expected to be more sensitive seeing as it addresses Uganda’s burgeoning oil industry, admits he has learnt his lesson the hard way.
The revolutionary filmmaker nonetheless insists his movie is still a class apart. Well, he might be right, at least basing on the general reception The Route has enjoyed.
Before its Kampala premiere, The Route had enjoyed brief stints in Nigeria and Malawi. In Uganda, its popularity is expected to sour once its cinema screenings resume later this month.
Technical wise, the film’s strength mainly lies in its talented cast, mostly made up of nascent actors. The storyline chronicles Samantha, a Ugandan girl trafficked into East Asia’s notorious sex industry.
Media has previously reported that over 1, 000 Ugandan girls are working as sex slaves in Kuala Lumpur and Guangzhou brothels, most of them meeting a brutal death with their body organs scooped out and sold on the black market – issues that The Route bravely addresses.