My East Africa!

18 Sep



With my travels across our magical continent, I have always resonated well and have a special kind of love for Uganda. So when I meet Ugandan people wherever I am in the world, I simply relish in telling them how much I love their country. Last year was no different, whilst attending the Berlinale film festival in Germany, where our film was being screened, I met a young film maker from Uganda. I simply gushed  at my Ugandan experiences and how I wished to work with their film industry soon and also see the rest of the country, as trekking to the gorillas is on my bucket list of adventures as well as visiting the Abayudaya community, one of Africa’s oldest Jewish communities.


Well, I strongly believe that what you put out to the universe, when the time is right, all will fall in place.

This year I received an email form The Uganda Communications commission, inviting me to be the International judge at their first Film festival as well as offer my services as a facilitator. I simply jumped at the opportunity, the plans were set in motion. Once all was negotiated , I looked at the dates and realised that the festival was a week before the Jewish New year and my birthday, so I grabbed the opportunity, asked them to extend my flight back a week later so I can tick off two point of my bucket list and add two extra blessings to me trip.


On arrival, the familiar warm sensation overwhelmed me as we drove the long road from Entebbe to Kampal, I’m convinced that I was a Ugandan in a past life as I have this really string connection to the land, the air and people. On arrival at one of my most favourite hotels in the world, The Serena, I am welcomed with the beautiful East African way of ‘You are most welcome’. What surprised me was what followed: Miss Motene, welcome home it’s been too long.

The film festival: My week ahead was quite intense, we had to watch approximately three to five films per day. As I have adjudicated many film festivals before, I knew that the work ahead would be tough and sometimes the nature of the films that are submitted may not be ones cup of tea but out of respect for the filmmaker we always watch each and every one. This festival was quite different as although through all media reports, it’s the first of its kind and they are late and not on par to the rest of the world. Majority of the films were of substance. I was taken into a Uganda world of rich traditions and cultures. What I loved is that there were only a few that that were heavily influenced by American films, with accent and look and feel. The many socio-economic issues that the country have dealt with and possibly still trying to overcome educated me, were addressed.


There were great performances as well and as there were not awards for actors, I  granted a mentor ship and representation on WAKA books to two specific actors.


The main issues of concern were technical, sound specifically. These are areas which were addressed with the UCC and will be included in future plans. At the award ceremony I addressed these issues and the reason why we could not award a best sound to any film as since The UCC want to take the film industry to great heights we have to start with a high bench mark. This then opens opportunities for training on technical front and possibly in the future creating Ugandan-South African co-productions.

So overall the first Uganda film festival was a great success and I look to watching it grow to great heights.


After my work was completed, I took in some of the fabulous Kampala nightlife. My partners in crime Ham and Anne, made sure that I enjoyed my favourite Matooke and G-nut sauce, boogied down at the latest hotspots, Cayenne being my favourite.


My two journeys, which I have titled BUCKETLIST ADVENTURE, including a three day excursion to the Bwindi forest in search of the gorillas. The second being travelling to the Easter part of Uganda, to meet the Abayudaya community and celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. I will take you on an in-depth experience in my next two blogs.


When I arrived back in Kampala it was the eve of my 39th birthday, where the celebrations began.


My darling friend Anne, made sure I was taken care of in true Uganda style, good food, wine, fabulous conversation and of course my ultimate, dancing. Without a doubt I was labeled the African dance queen of the weekend, from dancing into my birthday to ending the celebrations dancing. The Friday evening was a great dinner, of course my favourite Tilapia was served, Saturday afternoon , I was treated to a wonderful lunch then we headed to my favourite spot: Zone 7 owned by my dearest friends Tendo and Gaetano Kaggwa. To my surprise my WAKA stars Flavia and Cleopatra joined us, a surprise cake and bubbly were presented and new beautiful memories were made instantly.


Thank you to everyone who made my stay a phenomenal one. From my hosts and drivers and assistants who made sure I made every screening and meeting, to my tour guides to the welcoming staff who always managed to have my cappuccino waiting on arrival at the hotel.

Uganda, you are truly the pearl of Africa, I look forward to seeing you again.


My journey did not end there, since I was flown on KQ, which is a Kenyan airline, my stop over was in Nairobi. Stopping in Nairobi and not visiting the Khimani–Gasser clan would be sacrilege. So I extended my Nairobi to Johannesburg route, this was my added blessing. I added in some WAKA business, made contacts and new synergies and got to spend time with my favourite peeps in Kenya and the best of all meet the new G (guy)on the block, Yannick Khimani. He was born to Lea and Fareed in January.


The week in Kenya was long over due and totally refreshing. Great conversations, laughing until we cried and tummy’s ached to just enjoying each others energy and spirit. It’s great to see and feel that we have all been moving into different and exciting phases of our lives. My favourite times were rolling on the floor and dancing with Yannick and looking into his bold eyes wondering what was going through his mind. Children are simply amazing individuals.


Lea, Jasmine and Fareed always make my stays in Nairobi memorable ones that will stay in my heart forever. Thank you for always being YOU!!!!


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