UGANDA (2006)

A film by Jesse James Miller & Peter McCormack

Dates and Venues Tuesday, 10 October 3:45 pm at Vancity Theatre; Wednesday, 11 October7 pm at Ridge Theatre

This documentary exposes the so-called “hidden war” that has decimated the Acholi People of the Northern regions of Uganda in East Africa. Originally titled When Elephants Fight: Stolen Children in Uganda’s Hidden War, it's an obvious reference to an African proverb quoted throughout the film: “When elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets injured.”

The metaphorical elephants are in fact the government-controlled Ugandan People's Defense Force and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), while the women and children of the Acholi lands are the trampled grass beneath their feet. The rebel army is led by the mercurial Joseph Kony, himself an Acholi, whose only agenda appears to be to embarrass current President Yoweri Museveni's government.

The filmmakers effectively deal with the causes and effects of events that have brought Uganda to this appalling plight through graphic film footage and interviews with people like former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, former Ugandan minister, Betty Bigombe, and a government opposition politician with an unlikely name-- Ronald Reagan Okumu.

Miller and McCormack don’t hold back on filming grisly images of mutilated bodies, but it is never gratuitous, and is a vital part of the story-telling. However, some of the images may be too graphic for the really squeamish to handle.

The film offers a clear insight into the African sub-continent’s socio-political history, although it is assumed audiences have at least some basic knowledge on the subject. My only criticism of the project is that the blame for this catastrophe seems to be equally proportioned between the former British colonial power and the brutal regimes of Milton Obote and Idi Amin.

While some blame leveled at the British is no doubt justified, particularly the way the country’s border was arbitrarily drawn, there is no mention of the excellent business model and balanced justice system that Uganda had inherited but has long since discarded.

2006 John Jane