Ugandan film for American festival

POLLY KAMUKAMA

Controversial Ugandan film, The Route, has been selected to participate at this year’s Silicon Valley African Film Festival (SVAFF), slated for October 11-13th in California, USA.

News of the film’s admission into the acclaimed pan-African festival came in yesterday, and provided a fresh ray of hope for a movie that has courted mixed reviews ever since it premiered this July.

Themed on human trafficking and sex slavery, The Route has both been praised and panned for its lengthy portrayal of sex and violence. While some critics felt that some of the explicit scenes were called for, some members of the audience deemed it un-African and called for its boycott.

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WINNER’S SMILE: Maru (C) flanked by The Route’s stars, Felix Bwanika (L) and Edlyn Sabrina (2nd R)

In the wake of the maiden edition of the Uganda Film Festival (UFF) where The Route failed to win Best Feature Film award, this website broke the story of how the film’s young director, Jayant Maru, had succumbed to public pressure and cut out some scenes in an effort to make the 81-minute feature more viewer-friendly.

The reediting, we reported, brought about some incoherency but nonetheless did little to affect the film’s general strength as a serious social critique. And it is this pedigree which has earned The Route participation at SVAFF, a festival whose main ambition is to sell African cinema and culture in North America.

“I am extremely excited this being my first film. Unfortunately I won’t be travelling there due to a number of other commitments I will be having here at that time,” an elated 23-year-old Maru told us, adding he hopes to win something.

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DOUBLE SHOT: Maru will be eyeing two awards at Silicon; Narrative Feature Film and Emerging Filmmaker.

It however seems almost impossible for The Route to scoop Silicon’s Narrative Feature Film award, considering it will have to beat competition from the cream of African cinema including Malawi’s The Last Fishing Boat, Rwanda’s Imbabazi: The Pardon and the equally controversial Of Good Report from South Africa.

If The Route indeed tops this category, it will be déjà vu for Uganda. Last year, the award went to The Ugandan, a rather compelling tale of friction between an Asian and African family in post-Idi Amin Uganda, by revolutionary director Patrick Sekyaya.

Maru could however easily win the Emerging Filmmaker award, seeing as this year’s selection mainly boasts of seasoned African filmmakers including Cameroon’s Jean-Pierre Bekolo whose latest work, Le President (The President), has turned him into a rebel in his homeland.

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BUSY MAN: Maru is currently starring in an under-production film, and is set to begin shooting his second movie, a tale of Uganda’s burgeoning oil industry.

This year’s SVAFF will also feature the acclaimed Maisha Film Lab short, Zebu and the Photo Fish, which has been credited as a Kenyan film courtesy of its director’s nationality. Maru, an Indian-Ugandan born in Kenya, has also been mistakenly billed as Kenyan.

Elsewhere, The Route’s popularity is expected to sour courtesy of a special screening at the American embassy in Kampala on Wednesday next week. Maru, who spoke to us on a film set where he is starring, is also set to begin work on his second film, a story on Uganda’s emerging oil sector.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

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