While Africa may seem like a world away, many of the small towns and villages there share the same struggles and triumphs as Kodiak. That was the realization Marie Acemah had after four months in the West Nile region of Uganda. Acemah, who cofounded the nonprofit Media Action with her two sisters, recently returned to Kodiak after a life-changing winter leading peace film workshops in three different districts of Uganda.
The goal was to teach local residents how to use computers and camera equipment, so they could capture and share their vision of peace in the region. Acemah said the organization chose to host film workshops in the West Nile after visiting the area a few years ago.
-- (Uganda TOTR 1 :36 “What I saw was that
it was part of Northern Uganda, which as many people know has been part
of decades of civil war. But because it wasn’t in the heart of the
conflict, it was ignored. The government of Uganda was ignoring it.
NGO’s were virtually nonexistent there. So it was just this area that
had been completely cut off from the conflict, and yet there wasn’t much
attention paid to it. So it was so natural to think why don’t we go
there to do this project so that these people can tell their stories and
really express their vision of peace through film.”)
She said the project’s success was due in large part to the excitement of participants.
(Uganda TOTR 2 :11 “you know there wasn’t a feeling of
being jaded by international aide organizations that often times let
people down, don’t do a proper job, people were very, very open.”)
Despite only being a few years old, Media Action has already led many
film workshops throughout Alaska. Typically the organization targets
teenagers, but this wasn’t so in Uganda.
-- (Uganda TOTR 3
:27 “It was kind of hard to get teenagers. Because teenagers
that had dropped out of school were often times really busy working in
the fields, digging, getting food for the family, or maybe they’re teen
moms that are home with kids. So it’s often times hard to get teenagers,
because we were working with drop outs, with marginalized communities.
So we were really working with 18 through 30-year-olds, people in their
Acemah said a big part of making the trip a success
was keeping the locals’ perspectives and desires in mind. She gave an
example of what she meant, and how it changed the program.
(Uganda TOTR 4 :26 “One of the big shockers for us, we
always do documentary work. And they were like documentaries? We want
to do dramas. And we’d never really done dramatic film, it’s not our
field, but that’s what they were passionate about. That’s what they were
good at. So a couple of them chose to do documentaries, but we really
had to learn a lot, and they taught us because they were so natural with
Acemah said the films touched on topics ranging from
domestic violence and drug abuse to water rights and land conflicts. She
said many of the issues were similar to topics covered in past film
workshops held in Alaska.
You can learn more about those
parallels and Media Action’s work in Uganda by listening to the full
interview with Acemah during KMXT’s Talk of the Rock show, which airs
tomorrow at 12:30 p.m.
In addition, this September Media Action
will host a film festival in Kodiak to showcase some of the films
created during the four months in Uganda.