The Observer (Kampala)

Ugandan Movie Gives Aids New Perspective

Pundits have for long criticized Ugandan filmmakers for shying away from making movies based on relevant issues, specifically the HIV/Aids scourge which has ravaged the country for the last 30 years. It is only a few local films, most notably the 2006 Uganda-Nigeria collabo, Roses in the Rain, which have significantly portrayed the Aids theme.

A few other productions have vaguely addressed the deadly disease, but only as a minor plot.

However, Ugandans could finally have something to smile about, thanks to a new movie that has not only brought the Aids pandemic to the fore but also given the incurable disease a fresh, educative approach.

Directed by prolific filmmaker Irene Kulabako Kakembo of the Stone Cold fame, 85-minute-long Beauty to Ashes is set to premiere during the World Aids day cerebrations at National Theatre next month.

"We believe this film is a wake-up call for anyone who watches it," Kakembo says of her film, which is inspired by recent reports that indicate a steady increase in the number of new HIV infections.

She adds: "This film raises a number of questions as to why prevalent rates are still high despite the numerous efforts and campaigns."

Indeed, Beauty to Ashes approaches the Aids topic with adorable boldness, raising a number of questions that seem to challenge some of government's policies and cultural setups. Chronicling a large group of young urban dwellers, the Shs 11m-production-budget film mainly centres on parents' laxity in empowering their children against Aids.

The lead character, 17-year-old Susan (played by Brenda Awor) is unaware she was born with the virus. By the time her parents finally own up to her, it is too late - she's on a large sexual network, broadened daily by her much older and highly promiscuous lover, Aggrey (Patriko Mujuuka).

How a simple mistake by a parent, coupled with promiscuity, lack of ARVs, moral decadence and poverty results in the near-extinction of a whole generation takes the audience by storm. You helplessly watch as the Aids virus spreads from individual to individual, right on your screen.

"Young people should be told of their HIV status as soon as possible because knowing your HIV status means you can better protect your health and that of your partner," she said, imploring the public to turn up for the free-entry premiere that will also feature free HIV/Aids testing.

The rich plot aside, the Tri-Vision film boasts of a talented cast, made up of both established actors, such as Mujuuka and Norman Juuko plus a string of nascent talents led by Awor, Monica Birwinyo, Shabba Serunkuuma, and Ben Mwine.

State Research Bureau (SRB) writer Billy Ashaba penned it. Though entrance will be free, the audience will have to pick tickets at the National Theatre.

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