In a special open air cinema at Kawempe, Kampala, hundreds of people saw a lively mix of music, outdoor movies, acrobats, rappers, slam poetry and short and feature films, while veejays offered live translation of a Kenyan feature film, Help, into one of the local languages, Lugandan.
The video halls programme, which reached some 20 venues around Kampala between 19 and 23 November, has been put together by the Amakula Kampala Cultural Foundation and the Commonwealth Foundation as part of the culture programme of the Commonwealth People's Forum. Viewers saw outdoor movies from Cameroon, Kenya, Pakistan and South Africa, all translated into Lugandan.
The week before the video halls programme, a mobile cinema toured out of Kampala, reaching Jinja, Iganga, Tororo, Mbale, Soroti and Lira between 8 and 14 November. Amakula also presented a daily cinema programme as part of the People's Space from Monday 19 to Friday 23 November. In the People's Space films from Africa and further afield were used to trigger discussions about key development issues, such as fair trade and women's rights, led by civil society participants in the Commonwealth People's Forum.
Video halls are a uniquely Ugandan phenomenon: cheap, accessible places where communities gather to watch films on video. Outdoor venues are becoming even more common due to the great availability of space, and outdoor movies are now very popular. Veejays - video jockeys - provide live simultaneous translation of the videos from English to local languages. Competition between veejays is fierce and the top ones attract huge followings.
Andrew Firmin, the Commonwealth Foundation's Head of Culture and Diversity said, "This activity is taking the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to the people and highlighting a special aspect of Ugandan culture. Films are a great way of gaining glimpses into other cultures and ways of life, and they're a big part of the cultural programme of the Commonwealth People's Forum. We're delighted to be working with Amakula in this programme."
Participants at the 2007 Commonwealth People's Forum were treated to the fruits of an innovative film-making training scheme that took place during the weeklong summit.
The Maisha Film Lab, a Ugandan NGO, run a training course for new film-makers. They received instruction, and were mentored and coached on aspects of film-making technique such as screen-writing, directing, cinematography, sound recording and editing.
By the end of the five day training course, they made three short films on the themes of the Forum, Realising People's Potential, and were shown as part of the closing ceremony on Thursday 22 November. They were shown again in the film tent of the People's Space, an open access area of the Forum, on Friday 23 November as part of the Amakula film programme.
The films addressed key development issues: women's human rights, the status of the girl child and access to water in rural communities, using a mix of drama and documentary methods.
Commonwealth Foundation Head of Culture and Diversity Andrew Firmin commented, "This is an excellent training initiative for East African and South Asian film-makers, and it's been great to make the connection with the Forum. The films show how a connection can be made between creative expression and hard-edged development issues."
The programme was supported by a grant from the Commonwealth Foundation.