02 April 2012

Uganda, Dignity and Film


That Thing that Happened tells the story of Hope North* boarding school in Northern Uganda for former child soldiers and survivors of the violence perpetrated by the LRA. The film focuses on the school, the young students and the teachers who are inspired to lead change in their community. There are famous names behind the film, Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys wrote the music, but they are not a part of what is seen.

It is not the story, rather it is a story of a single school for 150 kids. The strength of the film is its focus on the reality of the school and the experiences of the children affected by the LRA. The dignity of the people filmed is maintained by allowing individuals to speak for themselves and tell their own stories. In the final scene, the students share what they want to be when they grow up. The answers range from Lawyer to nurse and artist to teacher. The final boy closes the film, "I want to be a Prime Minister."

A role can be played by foreigners, but as the film shows, especially with the final scene, these are not children who without a voice. The perception of voicelessness subverts what individuals and communities are trying to communicate. Such a paradigm feeds into the idea that one can pick and choose which voices to are deserving to be heard. It perpetuates the idea of the privileged to decide who does and does not have 'voice.' That could not be further from the truth.

One can choose to ignore what people are saying or marginalize what they are trying to say. Voice is innate to humans, that is what makes us a remarkable species. Because of that truth, voice itself is within every person. The real question is, are we listening?

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*This is is not an endorsement of Hope North, rather praise for the film that they produced about their own boarding school. The film is an important indication of how Hope North does their work, but I cannot speak to the rest of their work. Based on what I learned from the organization's website, there is a lot to support in the school. If you are interested in Hope North and would like to support their work, I urge you to go to their website and do some reading of your own in order to learn more.

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