Adong Judith gained repute as a filmmaker with the success of her plays Silent Voices and Niqabi Ninja. Now she is working on a film, Between Worlds and although it is still at script level, it is already going places
Superheroes are not a common film genre for African filmmakers for obvious reasons – the budget.
For theatre, they are a no go area for more than the budget – the ability to pull off such an imagination, the action sequences, transitions and the fanfare; these are things you cannot easily capture within the three walls of a theatre stage.
Yet, for some reason, Adong Judith, a theatre maker pulled it off when she directed Sara Sharaawi’s Niqabi Ninja, an Egyptian play set in Cairo at the time of the Arab spring and some parts particularly set in Tahrir Square, the face of the uprising.
With only two actors; Rehema Nanfuka and Lisa Gitu, she created a spectacle, complete with martial arts, ninja costumes, props and as it progresses, they even jump off buildings.
It is not surprising that many people thought she brought cinema to the theatre with many of her productions such as Ga-ad, Just Me You and the Silence and of course, the monumental Silent Voices.
As a theatre producer and playwright, Adong does not need an introduction, yet, even when she indeed studied film, only a few Ugandans have known her in that light.
Which was the reason her win at this year’s Durban Film Mart may have taken many people by surprise.
The filmmaker was a big winner at the 2020 Durban Film Mart ceremony held on September 13. Adong’s success came as a result of her crossborder script for her upcoming film, Between Worlds.
The film, which is still a work in progress, follows a story of Mugisha, whose life changes when he learns from a stranger that Ndahayo, the man he has always known as his wife Neza’s brother, was actually her husband.
It turns out the couple used to live happily as middle class citizens but had to flee Rwanda in 1994, only to end up in the slums of Kamwokya as part of the lower class.
And that is when Ndahayo sees an opportunity for salvation, after noticing Mugisha was interested in his wife So why not let them date to enable them to survive.
Years later, the temporary arrangement had taken a twist. With seven children in the mix, who is their father anyway?
Having stayed in Kamwokya at a point in her life, Adong says the story almost came naturally: “I managed to experience the divide between Kampala’s affluent and the slum areas separated by Kira Road.”
Why this film?
The Kamwokya slums are some of the biggest and most notorious in Kampala, they attract a big number of both locals and immigrants from within the country and outside.
Adong says this story talks about something that is relevant at the moment, immigration.
“It is told through the lens of immigration with genocide as a backdrop, how you survive displacement and the effects it comes with.”
Adong herself says she experienced the effects of displacement, having moved to the slums of Kampala after the insurgency brought about by the LRA rebels forced many to leave their homes.
A 2018 Prince Claus Laureate, Adong says the story idea was inspired by a conversation she had with her father in 2018. Then, she had met a Cameroonian filmmaker who had wished to collaborate with her on a film project.
“But I did not believe he was serious, though, when I returned to Uganda, he followed up with emails,” she noticed he was serious about the project, though she did not have a story.
It is during the celebration of her Prince Claus award that her father brought up a random conversation about this couple they had known during their days in Kamwokya. She says immediately, she knew that was the idea.
Between Worlds scooped two awards last Sunday, the DFM Durban Talents Award and the International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA) Award at the 11 edition of the Durban Film Mart.
The DFM Talents Durban award qualifies Adong’s project for DFM 2021 pitch and financing forum while the IEFTA Award guarantees get mentorship and connections with established members of the entertainment community, not just for the process of making this film, but even future projects.
Adong hopes that if everything goes according to plan, the film will start shooting in 2021.
Adong will direct the film while Zimbabwean filmmaker Sue-Ellen Chitunya is the producer. Chitunya has in the past worked as a crew member for Marvel Studios films such as Black Panther, Ant-Man, Thor Ragnarok and Spiderman Homecoming.
Adong says it is important to tell this story now, when the world is debating immigration but above it all, she says the story stands out for showing the world that as far as displacement is concerned, it can happen to anyone.
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