Monday, June 29, 2009

Movie industry is hopeful, but first we fix the hopelessness

On July 15th, my teacher and mentor, Sr. Dr. Dipio Dominic, the head of the Makerere University Literature Department, will launch her first feature film titled “A meal to forget” at the National Theatre.
Based on a true story of a man who killed his two children after failing to fend for them, the film explores issues of child welfare in the context of the challenging economic situation.
For the amiable Dr Dipio, with whom I worked as a respondent in the shooting of the documentary “Etiquette in Makerere” in 2006, the launch of her first feature film should be a cause for joy and celebration. And indeed it will be, albeit briefly.
For any movie-maker in Uganda, the nightmare of producing a work that you know will be pirated the next minute has never been any less. Ugandans have made it a habit to look for movies on the black market.
Last week, our NMG training honcho, Dr Peter Mwesige, recommended that I watch “State of Play”, the Russell Crowe movie on investigative journalism. Unable to quickly marshal the Shs12,000 needed at Cineplex Cinema, a friend offered to get it for me from Wandegeya. And God, for Shs2,000, I had the pirated version!
So, dear Dr Dipio will have her movie probably on the black market. But worse still, is the pain that when arrested, whoever is pirating the movie will be charged with “trespass” and fined some few coins! The Copyright Bill, remember has never been assented to into law. The same afflicts musicians and writers.
And yet, the movie industry if well-managed would be one of the greatest revenue earners for this country. The government has realised this and to try and stem the spiraling unemployment among the youth, during the reading of the budget recently announced a tax waiver on television, digital and video cameras. The thinking is that by making these gadgets more accessible, the industry should be able to flourish.
But it is pure foolhardy to imagine that only tax waivers shall spur growth of the film industry. I have already mentioned the question of the copyright law. It is crucial to protect people’s creative work and make it very punishable to pirate work. It is not fair that after others have shed sweat and blood to get their products out, others merely photocopy that work and reap benefits.
In Uganda for example, the distributors pay a paltry Shs3 million to Shs5 million for films that go for not less than Shs10 million during production. The movie-producers are therefore double looted; by the distributors and the pirates.
But beyond that, the players themselves need to style up. This morning, I tried to get information on the industry from the president of the Uganda Federation of the Movie Industry on how many players are in the market—and he confessed ignorance. That surely speaks volumes about the managers of the industry. All he could estimate was some 1,200 distribution outlets around Kampala.
Failure to harmonise the players explains why for example their quest to enter a partnership with Uganda Revenue Authority on taxation is failing. The movie-makers had hoped that by letting URA tax them and give them tax PINs, it could help fight piracy, since then the stakes would be higher. But a disorganised sector means such negotiations can’t take place. No wonder the government reluctance because they get nothing in return (read taxes) from the industry.
Importantly though, the makers of the films must understand the interests of the market. Their colleagues in the music sector have mastered this, explaining its tremendous growth. Movies should have local appeal and closer-to-home themes. We may not mind the sound and picture, but surely the themes can strike a chord with us. I mean, millions of Ugandans today watch poorly shot, heavily-accented Nigerian movies—why? Because of the messages. I am sure good content can still appeal, irrespective of the container.
Thirteen years ago, Nollywood was at the same point Ugawood is today. But they chose to get some basics right and today; Nollywood is worth $250 million, the second biggest income earning sector next to oil. Why shouldn’t Uganda pull off similar success??

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Please, return these children to their families

In the last two weeks, I have had to write these two articles in the paper;

9-year-old girl goes missing
Nine-year-old Nicole Lingomo, a daughter to Ramathan Lingomo, a resident of Kevina Village, Nsambya, Kampala, went missing on Friday May, 2009. According to her father, a Congolese refugee, she had gone to fetch water at a nearby tank when she disappeared at 9am. She was dressed in a green skirt, black blouse and wearing sandals. The Primary Two pupil at Nakivubo Primary School had plaited hair.
The matter has been reported at Old Kampala Police Station, but her worried parents appeal to anyone who can help them trace her to call 0753-063532.

Help trace this girl
Thirteen-year-old Melon Natukunda, an orphan from Agape Children’s Village, a charitable orphanage, in Kaggala, Bukerere, Mukono District went missing on June 1, 2009. The Primary 4 pupil, who speaks Luganda and Runyankole, disappeared while on her way to Agape Nursery and Primary School. She was wearing a blue T-shirt with the inscription “God is Able” and blue jeans trousers.
The case has been reported to Seeta Police Post but the management of Agape Christian Village appeals to whoever comes across her to contact them on phones lines; 0782-767843, 0772-948550 or 0782-337817.

So, who is taking our children?
On Friday 29th June, I was at my desk trying to make sure we beat the early edition deadline. As I went about editing the lead story, a lady from our advertising section walked to my desk, behind her was a graying old man, visibly worried. She told me the old man had something to tell me; paying half-attention, I asked him what the problem was.

In Swahili, he began, with a sob: “It is my daughter,” jolting me into full attention.
“Nataka mutoto wangu. Mbona mutu anaiba kasichana kangu. Nataka mutoto wangu (I want my girl. Why would anyone steal my girl? I need her back”).

The old man is Ramathan Lingomo quoted in the first story. In tears, he told me how his last born in a family of five had gone to a nearby tank to fetch water. Then suddenly Nicole was nowhere. Not even the peers who play with her could tell how and where she had gone. The pain on the old man’s face was discernible. It was obvious this little girl, born in exile, was his pet. Her play tool; the one who afforded him a smile as he drowned in the pangs of life in a strange land; as he waited for his share of rations from the refugee agency. The gap this little girl’s disappearance had caused in the family’s life was as glaring as a vacant plot in a slum.

Today, a week after, I called Mzee Ramathan. Nicole is still lost but today he received a call from an NGO that helps in these cases. He was preparing to go and meet them---hoping it is a move that will help his little sweet girl get re-united with the family. It is living in stretched hope, but still it is hope.

So, yesterday, Isaiah, our advertising manager came to my desk and told me: “Here is another case of a missing child. They saw the story you did on the first girl and they also want help.”
That is the case of Melon (picture above), lost from an orphanage. I have not talked to the caretakers. But still I feel the pain. I actually fear to talk to people close to these children because their tears send me to the brink of wailing too.

But, who is this taking our children? Who took little Nicole and Melon? Who is holding these little girls, probable female shakers of tomorrow’s Uganda? Who can’t let these girls have the peace and laughter of their family and friends?

I have heard of tales of child sacrifice blah blah. I just don’t want to imagine these little girls have been slayed. As was inscribed on Melon’s T-shirt, “God is Able”. If anything, God should be able to restore these girls to where they belong.
Watch your kids folks---don’t let them stray. We live in a cruel world.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Yes-our joking leaders

I had decided to give this blog a break from politics. I had turned to my second passion; literature, fiction.
But there are times when you can’t help it. When you look at the things around you, around your leaders and yeah, you think you need to say something---even if you are pretty sure you may change nothing. Yes, posterity will not judge me harshly; that I looked on as theft, plunder, and lootocracy went on unabated.
For example, the other day this minister for Local Government, the bespectacled Adolf Mwesige told a gathering of local councillors, that this government was preparing to pay councillors gratuity, in a bid to show “gratification for the great work the councilors do”.
According to the minister, this would roll out starting 2010 financial year and taxpayers (you and me) would have to fork out no less than Shs3 billion for the start. Ok, when friends tell me we have jokers running this country, I try to vouchsafe for them; but surely how do you make a case in front of such mediocrity, such pedestrianism like that exhibited by Hon. Adolf?
What this servant of the nation is saying is that after some fellow runs to be councilor, basically bribes the voters to let them allow him represent them either at sub-county or district; then in the course appropriates all tenders to himself or friends, attends a session once a month or twice in three months, draw a fat allowance; his policies are basically disregarded---that after such selfless service, me, the taxpayer, should thank this guy. Fear for his job security and say, “Man, since voters have now kicked you out, because you were a louse, here is your kasimo, your envelope!”
Yes, Adolf and ilk want us to believe that politics is now a profession at the level of teachers, nurses, engineers and journalists et al. That we should reward people who simply seek power, aggrandize themselves, loot whatever is in their vicinity; after such exploits, we should say, what a job well done!
This colleagues, comes in the face and news that our budget to be read this month will announce a default in payment of pension to the tune of over Shs130 billion because the government is broke. This colleague, will come on the backdrop that civil servants in 41 districts have missed their April salaries because the Treasury was dry and the supplementary budget unapproved by the House.
Yes, on the backdrop of all these, our government will pay gratuity to councilors, just a year before the next election—who smells a rat here, like I do?????

Monday, June 01, 2009

The pains of a sub editor

In a bid to put bread and butter on my table---and that of family and some friends, I try to make sense of stories. Going by the label sub editor, I am tasked to make stories comprehensible and sensible before they get to our much-beloved readers. That should not be a tough call--but look below and see how some people make me earn my bread. This is a raw copy of a story that was supposed to get to you, our beloved reader;

Congolese women using coca cola for quire private parts pains.

BY xxxxxxxxxxxx.

The staving Congolese women in Moroto Municipality have taken advantage of using coca cola soda for quire private’s parts pains after sex business.

More than 70 Congolese women earlier this month were chest away from the Barracks by the authorities from Moroto Division Barracks where they were staying with their husbands.

The Congolese women brought by the UPDF soldiers from Congo has their wives are stranded in Moroto municipality without any food supplies and they have turned into sex business for survives in the municipality of moroto.

“Although we are stranded but we shall not die because we have made friends in the municipality we only relying with any person who comes and buy for us Beer and eating other issues later,” they said.

Two Congolese women Albonda shalani and Landombo Rashal among others who stay in Narwosi slam area Moroto municipality yesterday revealed to daily monitor that most of their colleagues have got contract of sleeping with 7 men per night “in case of private pains they buy coca cola soda for quire the pain” Ms Albonda said.

The acting CAO incharg for Bokora Koriang Timothy moroto district said. I think there is need for emergency research on how to help these Congolese women so that they should not spoil the name of moroto municipality,” he said.

He said the government of Uganda has given every foreigner of staying in Uganda “we need to cooperate UPDF and the district on how to help these women” he said. END