Tanzania bans Ugandan film ‘The Route’

POLLY KAMUKAMA

The Route, the audacious Ugandan film about human trafficking and sex slavery, has been banned in Tanzania.

Kenya-based arts news website ArtMatters.Info is reporting that the hit film, which has captivated audiences world over since premiering last July, was last week given the red flag by the Tanzanian Censorship Board on grounds of being culturally pervasive.

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RUNAWAY HIT: The audacious film has screened all over the world and pocked a couple of awards.

The feature film, written and directed by Jayant Maru, had been selected to participate at the just concluded third annual Arusha African Film Festival (AAFF) in Arusha, Tanzania.

The country’s censors however blacked it out when the festival submitted it in for review ahead of its scheduled screening as required by law.

The film was apparently found to show too much sex and nudity, and was therefore considered a threat to the Tanzanian culture, says the article whose author attended the festival.

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AWARD WINNER: The film’s director, Jayant Maru (R), seen here with actors Mathew Nabwiso and Cleopatra Kohairwe, after winning the Best Feature Film award at last year’s Ndiff.

The article further reports that the festival organizers, who are yet to release a statement on the matter six days on since the eight-day cinema showcase ended, did not bother to contest the censors’ decision.

They also did not contact Maru, who did not attend the festival because it was clashing with a trip to USA where he is currently attending a series of human rights conferences courtesy of the film.

The 25-year-old filmmaker and graduate of Sociology & Law from the prestigious London School of Economics in the UK, was shell-shocked when we broke the news to him yesterday.

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CONTROVERSIAL: Part of the film’s cast and crew as seen at its Kampala premiere last year where some sections of the audience found it hard to watch it’s numerous explicit scenes.

“No one has informed me about this. The last time I heard from them (festival) is when they sent me an email saying my film was scheduled to screen. They even posted its screening schedule on their website,” a seemingly furious Maru told us from the Washington, USA.

The youngster who is of Indian descent and is touted as one of the bright stars of tomorrow’s Ugawood said he was disappointed with the censors’ decision because it deprived audiences of an opportunity to watch a film about some of the worst human rights violations.

The Route was borne out of Maru’s 2011 undergraduate thesis that saw him talk to various victims and perpetrators of human trafficking across the world.

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BANNED: The film has been banned on grounds of “cultural perversion because it shows too much sex and nudity”

Using his own funds, he produced the film that has since gone on to screen at international festivals in Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Malawi and USA among other countries, where it has won critical acclaim and a number of awards.

But the film, his first project as a director, has also had its fair share of controversies. It miraculously survived Ugandan Censorship Board with an 18-rating, the most restrictive classification category in the country’s film-rating system.

And during the film’s premiere at the National Theatre in Kampala, some members of the audience couldn’t stand the rape and torture subjected to the lead character – a poor village girl sold off into the seedy world of sex trade in Asia.

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SILVER LINING: In a dramatic twist of events, another Ugandan film, The Superstition, directed by Paresh Gondaliya (C), emerged victorious at the Arusha festival, where actresses (L-R), Pretty Katende, Lindsay Mbabazi and Irene Milka attended a workshop.

But Maru, whose latest film K3nt & Kat3 is themed on Dyslexia, a form of autism that affects the child’s learning and speaking abilities, insists The Route’s rawness is justified.

“I did not want to sugarcoat the suffering and brutality that millions of trafficked girls across the world are subjected to. I wanted to tell the truth,” Maru said of the film that took the Best Feature award at last year’s Ndiff, explaining that the film is meant to create awareness than to entertain.

Already, the film has been adopted as an advocacy tool to promote women and children’s rights in Uganda by a number of organizations including the American embassy in Kampala which is sponsoring his US trip.

And the young artist says the Tanzania ban, which will no doubt ultimately work in his favor by raising public interest in his works, won’t deter his passion of making socially provocative films that promote human rights.

Meanwhile, in a rather dramatic twist of events, Ugandan film, The Superstition, continued its impressive run by winning this year’s AAFF Best Feature Film award.

The accolade is the second in two months for the child sacrifice-themed film that premiered this July, and has since been selected to participate at a number of international festivals.

The film was represented by one of its supports Lindsay Mbabazi, who together with fellow Ugandan actresses, Irene Milka and Pretty Katende, was part of the festival’s hands-on Acting workshop.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

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