Mitch’s Moment- December

What We Can Learn from Uganda’s First Action Movie

It’s 2010 in Kampala, Uganda; civil unrest and poverty are the norms. In this environment, Nabwana Isaac Geoffrey Godfrey assembled spare parts and scrap metal to make a computer and recording equipment, then used those tools to put his mark on the world. This mark was “Who Killed Captain Alex,” the microbudget film that touts itself as “Uganda’s first action movie.”

It was made on a shoestring $200 budget, and it shows. Instead of English subtitles, a “Video Joker” dubs the entire movie, voicing every role, and occasionally providing his own color commentary. Actors provided their own costumes and props. Some of the prop weapons were children’s toys, and others seemed to be crafted by gluing together industrial scrap. One character sports a bandolier fashioned from whittled twigs, meticulously tied together.

While these low-budget artifacts would normally be seen as blemishes, it strikes me while watching what incredible care and passion it must have taken to create this movie in an environment that was not custom-built for filmmaking. Local pride seeps from every frame, from the narration, that pointedly exclaims “this is how we do it in Uganda,” to the actors, who seem excited to simply be on screen. I couldn’t summarize the plot to you if I tried, and if I did, I would be missing the point of “Who Killed Captain Alex” entirely. We don’t even find out “who” killed Captain Alex. This wasn’t about a story that needed to be told, it was about a community that needed to be represented.

Nabwana identified this need in his community, and then implemented his idea, using the tools he had. From this humble start, he created a film that has been screened millions of times, and has put Kampala on the filmmaking map. If he had waited for Warner Brothers to come to Uganda, to be provided a budget from a studio, it simply wouldn’t have happened.

In Central Illinois, we have our own grassroots efforts. Lynn Ehmen saw local families struggling to make ends meet, and there was no infrastructure laid when she decided to take action by developing a network of micropantries here in Springfield.

In Illinois, 1 in 10 people struggle with hunger, and it’s even more common for kids, with 1 in 8 children facing food insecurity. Last year, United Way of Central Illinois provided over 400 thousand meals, and over 167 thousand pounds of food to those in need, but this does not mean that hunger was solved in Central Illinois.

That’s why Lynn, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, hand-built and stocked 30 micropantries where individuals can both donate and receive food. Like Nabwana, she used the resources she had at her disposal, and did what she could. Instead of recruiting actors from around town, she found her group of passionate volunteers through her personal network, and the “Springfield Families Helping Families” Facebook group. She relied on personal contacts for carpentry expertise, and even helped with the building herself. She did this all to make food assistance more attainable for our community. “There’s help out there, but people don’t know how to access it. This is why this appeals to me, because of the accessibility of it,” she explained to the SJ-R.

When United Way became involved, Lynn had established her network of pantries across the area, all the way from Virden to Petersburg. United Way volunteers, when presented with the opportunity, did not miss the chance to be a part of such a great idea. In our Fall Day of Action, our hand-raisers donated 1,868 pounds of food to these local hubs for food. Like Nabwana and his band of ad hoc actors, these donors saw an opportunity to make a difference and took it. There were no action films in Uganda before “Who Killed Captain Alex,” and there wasn’t a network of micropantries in Springfield before someone decided to make it happen.

If you have donations or are in need yourself, you can find your nearest micropantry using this map. Or, to support basic needs throughout our community, you can donate to United Way below.

Mitch Baker is the Community Impact Manager at United Way of Central Illinois.

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