Activist & Film Producer Alex Semambo
I decided this quarter that I would find more things to do in my community. I also wanted to become more integrated with the University as whole because “us” business students are often locked in the business building praying for “free time” that will probably never come. When I saw that an activist from Uganda would be speaking at my University, I immediately decided to attend. Besides, I just think anyone standing up for a good cause is DOPE.
Alex Semambo has a baby face and boyish innocence about him. Originally from a small village in Uganda, Alex attended school there and went on to take film courses elsewhere.
His new film, “Born Gay,” chronicles the lives of several members of the LGBT community in Uganda. The film is in response to Uganda’s criminalization of members in the LGBT community. Although the topic is taboo, he was inspired to produce the film after his own sister was beaten and paralyzed because of her sexuality. Even as boy, he realized his sister was not feminine. Due to traditional practices, she was married right after puberty and she bore a son. She fought with her husband often because he did not think she acted like a typical wife.
Alex decided to talk to other men and women and found that many of them had similar stories. They would only speak under the condition of anonymity for fear of backlash. He found that most of them had never been exposed to anyone in their community who was “gay” or “lesbian” however, many of them recognized early in their childhood that they were attracted to people of the same-sex. Without access to TV, internet, and mass communication, Alex argues that these people were not influenced to chose this lifestyle instead, it is an innate desire. He advocates for “public acceptance and legal protection of the LGBTQIA community in Uganda and the rest of the world.”
He also talked about his film “Girl Power”, which gives insight into the typical life of women in Uganda. Men often have many wives and girls are married off to older men as they approach puberty. If their families can not send them to school, they become dependent on their husbands. These women though, are often wonderful mothers who raise their children with dignity and respect. They value motherhood and make sacrifices so their children may have a better life. I believe that most women around the world have that same sentiment in respect to their children. I enjoyed the pictures of various women going about their daily life. The photos were candid and authentic and I wondered if the women depicted had any dreams or if their circumstances prevented them from dreaming of a better and more fruitful life.
Even though some women hold government positions in Uganda, people in the rural areas still have a ‘traditional” mindset about women. This film empowers women. I was aware of the ill-health conditions that occur in most impoverished nations yet, I was still appalled at the thought of women having to walk 20 miles to reach the nearest hospital to give birth. Sometimes these women never make it to the hospital and if they do, the limited space causes them to delivery lying on the concrete floor. Since there are not many beds available these women then have to trek back to their villages within a short time of giving birth. I know women who skip work and school because of cramps but there are women elsewhere who are forced to “keep going” despite pain, agony,illness and physical exhaustion. I guess that is why my mother used to tell me that…….
“FAIR IS AN AMUSEMENT PARK”.
Alex also discussed AIDS and poverty. In true activist nature he proclaimed, “If we wait on the government, our problems will never be solved.” So he works with people in the rural villages to document their stories.He also hosts events so that the villagers can watch the films. Some of these events draw up to 20,000 people. More importantly, the films inspire conversations. After each film, there is a discussion session. I must I admit that I was proud when he said that women usually come up with the best solutions to enhance the lives of people in the village. Alex is “in love” with what he does and I hope that we all do something in our lives that makes us feel the same way.