WHEN I FIRST MET HER at the Kampala Serena Hotel in Uganda exactly a year ago, the polite, soft spoken daughter of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, had been visibly anxious about her debut film, 27 GUNS, the shooting of which had just begun with an all-Ugandan crew and cast.
She spoke passionately about the project, which literally had her living in the bush in Luwero, located two hours by road from Kampala, at the time of the filming.
Premiering in Uganda and South Africa in September, 27 GUNS recreates Uganda’s bush war of the 1980’s and Luwero is significant as is where her father mostly went into hiding as part of the National Resistance Army (NRA). All they had was 27 guns, 41 men and hope.
Karugire says: “I believe it’s our time as Africans to stand up. It’s time for us to sing our own song, in our own words. I hear the rumblings of the awakened roar of a collective people. The world is going to hear the sound of Africa.”
The mother of four, who scripted and directed the film, under her production company Isaiah 60, says of the cast, including the lead actor, Arnold Mubangizi, who plays the young Museveni: “A big number of our cast had no prior acting experience, yet they gave amazing, very real performances.”
She reveals more to FORBES WOMAN AFRICA ahead of the film’s screening:
What is the scale of scope of 27 GUNS? How long did it take to film and what was the investment?
27 GUNS is an independent film on a larger scale than the ordinary indie. So our budget is indie but the story is massive. You can imagine the struggle to marry the two aspects. Very much like the Pan-African spirit in this film, our financial and human resource support is entirely from within the continent, and mostly from Uganda.
We have had tremendous support locally, from other filmmakers who have been doing this longer than we have. Also several local firms and companies who value our national history and understand the medium of film.
Why did you choose this story? Did it help having access to the President and getting various first-hand accounts?
I believe the story chose me and not the other way around. It began as casual banter between afew of my close friends and me, talking about documenting our history, for posterity…It took a full year to write. I should mention here that Iam a Christian, so all the decisions I make are influenced mostly by faith. I used my father’s book as the basis for the script, along with scripts from my mother’s autobiography. I was also fortunate enough to be able to speak with afew of the military commanders who served with my father all those years ago, to glean something from their perspectives as well.
Are you looking at film festivals?
Being our first project, we are unknowns in the African film sector. My prayer is that the product will market itself. We are preparing to apply to festivals around the world but have been very busy meeting our deadlines. We are interested in showing at the African Film Festival, the Zanzibar International Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival and Cannes; they are some of the events we are submitting to.
What was different about your approach?
What a story to cut my teeth on! A biopic about a man who does not easily show his emotions, is extremely charismatic and yet stoic. It’s also a story about love and separation, as the main character is apart from his wife and children for years at a time; sons and daughters separated from their families as they choose to fight for freedom. A war film no less which requires bigger numbers than say a comedic story.
We filmed in eight different locations in Uganda. I discovered a white sandy beach not far out of the city. Uganda is incredibly beautiful and also very rich in history and contains cultures that are similar and yet diverse in fascinating ways.
I directed the film with a talented gentleman called Sharpe Ssewali whom I met afew months before we began to film. We had different approaches, but it ended up working well. I realized I mostly enjoyed working on dialogue scenes, on human interactions and emotions more than the action sequences.
How did you carry out the stunt sequences and bomb blasts in the film?
We had support from the army…This story is very much their story so being able to work with them was fantastic on so many levels. We worked with a small team to be able to have stunts done, know how to handle weapons and so on in a way that is authentic to us…This being a story that is very personal also, there are scenes that would make me emotional.
Viewing my parents’ lives from this age and being a mother and wife now, I tried to put myself in their shoes. Imagine being a young wife with four young children running for your life over and over again; [imagine] my father at a young age and all the men and women with him who would go without food, who lived on the edge for years for an ideal they believed in and hoped for; the people of all walks of life who supported them. And I was not the only one emotional on the set during filming. Many members of our crew would feel deeply, and some of our actors, especially the older ones who lived through the times the film is set in, would get tearful and need time to compose themselves.
What family support did you receive during filming?
I had immense support from my entire family, for which Iam grateful. From my babies to my husband to my sisters and their families and our parents…My children prayed daily for the success of the film assignment, as did my mother. Edwin, my husband, has been amazing. He stepped in and was on both ‘Daddy and Mummy duty’ for the duration of the filming. He was fully involved in school activities plus out-of-school activities. If he felt overwhelmed, he did it well.
[I would like to recountthat] Edwin and I met when we were 16. My parents may find out through this article that they unknowingly played the part of matchmakers. After the passing of Edwin’s parents, who were good friends of my folks, my father invited Edwin and his siblings to spend a holiday with us in the village as they were all young too. Edwin and I became fast friends, and as we grew in years, so did our friendship. After university, we got married and that was 18 years ago.
Have your parents seen the film yet?
No, my parents haven’t seen the film, but they saw the trailer. My mom became a little emotional when she saw it, whereas my father gave me a smile and thumbs up…and moved on to the next thing.
However, they are both glad the younger generation is taking an interest in our history, because they believe, rightly so, that a society that does not know and understand its past cannot make meaningful progress