A Uganda film loosely based on the illicit trade in human organs is set to premiere Tuesday next week at National Theatre in Kampala.
Titled Call 112, the thriller chronicles two siblings’ desperate struggle for survival after they are kidnapped by a gang of human organ traffickers on their way from school.
Speaking to this blog in an exclusive interview today, the film’s writer and director, Joseph Ken Ssebagala, said his story was partly inspired by a series of local newspaper articles he read in the past two years highlighting the vice.
“I got to understand the full scale of this heinous trade, and imagined the kind of trauma the victims and their families had to endure,” Ssebagala explained.
But with a meager self-funded budget of a ‘few million shillings’ and an urgency to tell the story quick, the 32-year-old filmmaker had to settle for simpler, easy-to-execute bits of the intricate and multi-layered international trade when he set out to produce the film via his Zenken Films studio this February.
He thus chose to focus on the psychological toll suffered by victims moments before they are robbed of their organs and left to die in cold blood.
The storyline centres on two estranged siblings, Paul and Anna, played by Farooq Mutebi and Fausta Nanziri, respectively, who are drugged and kidnapped from a taxi while traveling back home from a university they both attend.
The duo quickly get to learn of their fate, and must race against time, using whatever means possible, to prevent their organs being scooped out and sold for a killing on the black market.
“It’s really a survival story, and partly an acknowledgment of the great efforts by Ugandan families, communities and law enforcers to combat this illegal trade,” Ssebagala said of the film that derives its title from the international distress call code.
The artistic Ugandan filmmaker had previously drummed up buzz for the film by posting a series of cryptic pictures online showing his actors locked up in metallic cages, bloodied and terrified.
The film’s official trailer, released to few views on YouTube last month, however gives a few brief details about what awaits audiences at the red-carpet unveiling next week.
The two-minute clip opens with what appears to be proof of the strained relationship between the siblings before cutting to the kidnap scene and then the distress call to police.
The short video further presents actor Jakira Suudi as the main antagonist, a dreadlocked psychopath known as ‘the Surgeon’, who seems to find pleasure in torturing his victims before cutting them open and scooping out their vital organs.
The 130-minute English language thriller might sound like a diversion from Ssebagala’s usual style of storytelling but the award-winning multi-artist admits it still carries some of his most favoured themes such as sex.
Call 112 is the first of two films to come from prolific Ssebagala this year.
His other piece, House Arrest, a compelling story of a bewitched widow struggling with memories of abuse, is slated for a festival premier at UFF later August.
Tickets to Tuesday’s show are selling at Shs10,000, and gates open at 6pm.