Tag Archives: video

A few small bananas

My third day in Nakivale, Uganda’s oldest refugee settlement, and feeling ready to move on tomorrow. Meanwhile my guide and translator, a film-maker and actor called Alex, is in his ninth year of living here. Some Rwandans I’ve spoken to have been here 16 years. Some mention those who were resettled in the US, Canada, Denmark; many have disappeared to try to make it in Uganda’s cities. Most people stay.

And they come. New arrivals — about 3000 each month — put the current number of inhabitants at 110,000. The population looks set to keep growing:  Uganda is receiving refugees from not one next-door crisis, but three: DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan.

I’ve talked to maybe 20 people, some for five minutes, some for several hours. Olga, a warm young Congolese woman who has galvanised a group of her peers to start making and selling crafts, tells me in well-spoken French that life is better here for simple reasons: securité, liberté. We can do what we want. Many others are less positive. Yes, we could go and live elsewhere, but how can we afford to? Yes, we can set up businesses here in Nakivale, but how, without capital? Yes, we could buy better or cheaper goods from the cities, but who pays our transport there? Continue reading

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Photo fortnight

Two weeks go by fast. We didn’t do a proper exhibition in the end; the timing felt a bit too tight to select photos and get them printed before I left, partly because there was no power to use computers when we needed to. Instead, I sent the group out to do some video interviewing (luckily I had spare batteries). Day one of video worked really well – they liked getting out to a new place and asking and answering questions on camera. Day two was hard work though. The group wanted to practice by interviewing teachers and school pupils but got caught up in the labyrinthine formalities of sitting in the headmaster’s office trying to explain their reasons. Finally, the HM, as they’re known here, sent three pupils out to answer the group’s  questions, but they were all so terrified and shy that they could barely be heard on camera, while the teacher has asked them to do it all over again when they’ve had more time to prepare. It was, I guess, a useful learning experience…

So, what was the real value of all of this?  Continue reading

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Pig & blankets

My four students, Ugandan volunteers from their early 20s to about 50, arrived more or less on time (on African time) this morning. Susan promptly handed a bundle of blankets over to the boss, who sat at the desk next to us with the sleeping 1-month-old Elijah across her lap the rest of the morning. The shriek of a pig being slaughtered just outside was a bit more distracting, but otherwise things sort of went to plan (photos coming once internet more available).

The level of education, and of confidence, varies widely in the group. Zai has her own business – making peanut butter – and Vincent has two university degrees. The others are shy and unsure, with more of a language barrier too. We’ve got quite a lot to do, in less than two weeks: the idea is to get them started on gathering photos and interviews for the website, while giving them a chance to develop new skills.  Continue reading

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The luxury of leaving

Washing lineOn day 4, we stood in a circle and held hands while Lawrence – fondly nicknamed ‘the Pastor’ – asked that God bless my safe return. It was nearly dark: we’d waited a long time for Okwiri, who’d spent all day with a mechanic after some kids vandalised the friend’s car he’d borrowed to drive us into Dandora.

But there was still time for a prayer. ‘Does it feel like a ritual?’, laughed Okwiri, who seems – either from experience or instinct – to know where the great divides between Africans and Europeans lie. ‘No! It’s nice’, I said – and was glad I didn’t have to lie.

Their enthusiasm to work with me all week was heartening – though given that the chef at my hotel and my taxi driver seemed equally sad to say goodbye I don’t quite take it as a measure of success. Continue reading

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Contagion

I couldn’t think of a single follow up question. Or didn’t want to.

I was doing a quick interview with a woman on the street outside the school. Her kids often had to miss class because she didn’t have the money, she said. And suddenly, I was too tired of hearing it again. It was always the same, tedious story. Nothing changed. I couldn’t fix it, and I had no idea who could or would. What was the point?

Later, Okwany asked me for advice: his mother had lost both legs, his father was very old. They lived far away and didn’t have enough to eat. Later, when he hinted at the allowance we might pay them to cover their travel costs, I pretended not to notice, till the subject was changed. I wanted Okwiri to deal with that – even if we split the cost – I hated them thinking I was money.

But I wasn’t the only one.

‘They’ll all be saying, now you have money’, Teacher Alice told me, as we waited for the others to come back from filming. Continue reading

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Zero to hero

On day one, these people had literally never held a camera before. When we talked, at some point, about what they’d learned, one answer was: now I know that I can hold the camera like that [landscape format] or like that [portrait format]. Another: I know now that if the camera is further away, the objects look smaller.

By day four, two of them went out and – within one hour – came back with this (originally 15 mins of footage – I edited it down to 5):

Continue reading

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Making it work

Photo by Lawrence

First timers – photo by Lawrence

New project, new challenges.

Back in Kazo, the school was about 20 yards from my home; here, it takes a good hour and a half bouncing along the roads of some not-so-nice parts of Nairobi. The Kenyans I’m working with have zero experience of cameras (which also makes it a lot of fun), and I’m told we need to pay them something to compensate for a day of lost wages. And we have only four working days to do something meaningful.

At least this time, I’m not too surprised when we don’t start on time, or that attendance is somewhat, well, fluid. And since my expectations are lower – this is a bit of a trial, before a real (and funded!) project comes next year – it’s nice just to see where it goes. They seem to be enjoying it so far. Continue reading

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Land of opportunity

Impromptu interview with Erasto, a filmmaker who took me on a brief tour of Kibera.

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No to nostalgia

RainWe finished the film, even with 4+ days without power; our main actor walking off set mid-scene; and people never turning up when they said they would. We screened it on my laptop in a dark classroom on my last evening in Kazo, to about 20 people, and it was kind of special to feel proud of something that I had not done: the guys had done virtually all the actual shooting, acting, editing.

But there’d been too little time (or energy, or electricity) to do all that I could/should have done. I could have done a camera class with the teachers and P2 class, could have helped Eliab with his CV, could have helped Godfrey with his dance website and Joseph with his exam prep, could have helped Shakul and Baker create flickr accounts, could have given Poul more time on my computer to play with Photoshop, could have done more editing with Daniel, could have taught Juliette how to use Excel and Word, could have made that brochure for Ronald, could have done more photo sessions with everyone, especially the latecomers, could have pushed further on the AIDS issue that was always sort of there but never properly discussed. I could have done more for so many good-hearted, courageous people. Maybe I need to come back.

Before the nostalgia sets in, I’d better remember the worst bits. Continue reading

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(Some) Action

Schedule We have 20 scenes to shoot in a week. After a slow start, I realised that my hands-off approach might be fine for actual filming, but it damn well wasn’t working for planning. We’ll see how my schedule works out.

There’d been a general sense of surprise at how much work was involved, and more interest in taking photos of each other wearing sunglasses. (Is that an age thing, a boy thing, or a Ugandan thing?)  It’s probably going to rain now, they said. We don’t have all the actors. They won’t let us film there. There’s no power.  It’s too expensive to print out the script. Continue reading

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