The Monitor (
17 May 2008
Posted to the web 16 May 2008
Film buffs at the just-concluded Fifth Amakula Kampala International Film Festival must have wondered why the film showcase did not start on time last Thursday.
Most had come early to the National Theatre to watch Ugandan filmmaker George Sengendo's works Adopted Twins and Dangerous Decisions scheduled to show in the morning.
Unbeknownst to them, Pastor Martin Sempa had thrown a spanner in the festival works and had petitioned the Broadcast Council about the impending screening of a gay-themed movie The Watermelon Woman at 10.15p.m. that day in the Green Room. The Broadcast Council forwarded the complaint to the Media Council who summoned the festival organisers and asked that they preview the controversial film first.
The Watermelon Woman is a loosely constructed faux documentary about black lesbian filmmaker's obsession with obscure silent film star. Reel.com says it's the kind of film that would be much appreciated by those seeking mix of tongue-in-cheek humour with thought-provoking exploration of gender, race and identity.
The Media Council then decided that the film contained a lewd lesbian act that was not palatable for public consumption and its secretary Mr Paul Mukasa requested that they suspend the film but that the festival could go on.
Another gay-themed film, Rag Tag by Nigerian born filmmaker Adaora Nwandu had already shown on Tuesday May 6 at 10.10p.m. at the festival before Sempa's raised his complaints. Rag Tag is short for Raymond and Tagbo. It is about two inseparable Afro-Brit teenagers who reunite after years of separation.
During a trip to
The fiery Pastor Sempa has gone on to say that Hivos, a Dutch organisation that is one of the festival's prime sponsors is also an active pusher of the gay agenda. Festival director Alice Smits who has often been on the receiving end of Pastor Sempa's anti-gay activism resents his militant approach to fighting homosexuality which does not promote dialogue.
The two clashed at the Commonwealth People's Space last November after Sempa mobilised youth to push Ms Smits off the venue where the Amakula Kampala Cultural Foundation had organised a debate between pro and anti-gay activists.
The halting of The Watermelon Woman's screening may look like an extension of the personal vendetta between Sempa and Smits but Sempa insists that Smits is offending African culture, the Christian faith and breaking our laws in using the festival to push the gay agenda. "There are sections of the Penal Code that condemn homosexuality and indecency which those two films are all about," says Sempa.
He would prefer that the Media Council took a more proactive approach to ridding society of this "seedy, dirty, filth" that is on TV and in most films coming out of
Hivos and Amakula are computer programmes that may have good content but are embedded with viruses. As civil society, we need stronger anti-viruses to inoculate ourselves against them even as they get more sophisticated," says Sempa.
Media Council's Mukasa knows the regulatory body ought to play a more proactive role. "But you must understand that like most institutions of our kind like the police, someone has to report first," says Mukasa. He, however, urges restraint in civil society's pursuit of the anti-gay agenda.
Amakula's Smit is rather surprised at the whole hullabaloo about the two gay films at this year's festival. "We are not out to push any gay agenda. The focus this year was on pictures by African filmmakers and the diversity of subjects they are exploring. We showed over 300 films and it is not that the two gay films were pornographic so in my opinion, Amakula did not break any of the laws Sempa is talking about," says Smits.