Director Laura Cini was at DocsBarcelona 2016 at a rough cut screening in front of a selected panel with me as the moderator. She has now finished the film, sent it to me, asking my opinion as she experiences rejections from many festivals. What’s wrong, she asks? I answer ”well the competition to get into festivals is strong” and ”most festivals play safe and your film is not very ”sexy” subject-wise” in comparison with the many current social and political issues in the world right now. Even though you can see it is as a women’s story.
Nothing is wrong, I can tell the director after I have seen the final version of the one hour long documentary. My impression is the same as when it was selected for the Barcelona session: The director has made her aesthetic choice that brings a quiet, intimate tone and brilliant cinematography – she mixes fiction and documentary in a way that you don’t think about what is what. And content-wise the story about the unmarried pregnant women, who were taken to the island Akampene in South-Western Uganda to be forgotten and die by starvation in loneliness, is touching more than shocking due to the way the old women and (some) men tell what they remember or what they remember to have heard. Some were chosen by men without bribes and taken from the island, often to live as outcast. Wonderful expressive faces meet the camera, mixed with images from the lake and nature, where the island was and is no longer. My grandmother came back, a man tells, (grand)mother and daughter next to each other, a woman who does not remember her age, ”does it matter”, reverend Stephen introduces the story about Mauda, who was 4 days on the island, ”I was raped”, says she or another woman, again it does not matter as the film turn it all into a collective voice on pain and survival. Other stories came up when religion came, when the whites came, they are not in the film.
Some small dramatizations are made (unfortunately the words of the one impersonating the island that speaks to the audience are difficult to understand, please subtitle), a fine song is song, and a man is drawing scenes from the stories on Punishment Island.
Festival readers of this post, take a look.