Chapter

'Bergman in Uganda': Ugandan Veejays, Swedish Pirates, And The Political Value of Live Adaptation

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

In early May 2014, the Swedish artist Markus Öhrn premiered the first part of his project ‘Bergman in Uganda’ at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels, Belgium. The premiere involved a screening of Ingmar Bergman’s signature film Persona (1966), interpreted by a Ugandan ’veejay’ who goes by the name of Veejay HD. On two adjacent screens, Öhm presented viewers with Bergman’s film and Veejay HD’s face, as he translated the film into Luganda for Ugandan audiences, with Veejay HD’s words, in turn, translated into English subtitles. The festival blurb describes veejays as ‘a new kind of folk storyteller … people who work in makeshift cinema halls in slums and remote villages’ and who translate foreign films (mostly Hollywood blockbusters) for Ugandan audiences (Kunstenfestivaldesarts, 2014). It explains Öhrn’s motivation for initiating the ‘Bergman in Uganda’ project as one invested with irony, as a way of allowing ‘the European spectator to see how the African viewer looks at him’ and as a ‘confusing reversal that induces us to reflect on our own perspective’ (Kunstenfestivaldesarts, 2014).

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... In Uganda and Tanzania typically, a type of 'events cinema' came into being with practices of spectatorship structured around the presence of the 'veejay' or 'video narrators'. Beyond the needs of African-American audiences that mainly inform the critical discussions of Bobo (1998Bobo ( ), bell hooks (1992 or Diawara (1988) for example, there are indeed other viewing practices that have become necessary; and have come into existence on account of a wider need to exercise strategies of 'adaptation' and 'appropriation' (Dovey 2015). In Who Killed Captain Alex? this veejay's presence becomes a generic convention of Wakaliwood films and a subject of interest in the study of African cinema. ...
... As Dovey (2015) suggests, responses of popular audiences in the Ugandan context may confirm that acceptable readings of depictions of 'a ridiculous display of government power' is a 'clue to people's feeling about the political atmosphere' (103). However, in the Swedish-Uganda encounter at the core of Dovey's discussion, there is a tendency to normalize the European view ('gaze'), and to evade the fact that normalized European truth claims are also in the frame for contestation. ...
Article
Full-text available
As a transnational cinema event, the release of Marvel Studios’ Black Panther (2018) is arguably a monumental moment in the African experience of cinema. Coincidentally, this is followed in 2019 by the 26th edition of the bi-annual festival of Pan-African cinema, FESPACO, which will mark fifty years of the festival’s existence. In addition to the programme of screenings, African filmmakers, critics, theorists, among others, are expected to gather in Ouagadougou to engage with issues of memory, identity and the economy in relation to the idea of a sustainable and diverse Pan-African cinema. These issues have long been prominently placed on the agenda of those concerned with African filmmaking. That they remain a preoccupation of current debates, suggests their persistence, and perhaps, an urgent need for these debates to move beyond the metaphorical polarities of ‘dog eat dog’ and ‘dog eat nothing’. These ‘notes’ are therefore, in anticipation of new perspectives that would shape the futures of African filmmaking. Importantly, a perspective will be sketched to help frame an approach to the idea of Pan-African cinema as a global and transnational economy – cultural, financial and ideological.
Chapter
Kao argues that development economic theory collapses the difference between a flexible definition of improvement as self-determined change and a prescriptive definition of improvement as an ideology in which all nation-states and individuals must participate in global capitalism in order to achieve “progress.” The chapter further argues that this collapse reduces possible understandings of “development.” Focusing on differentiating between agential and coerced improvement, Kao traces a chain of ideological resemblances that runs from early agrarian capitalism and Enlightenment notions of teleology to Victorian coercive progress and twenty-first-century neoliberalism. The introduction concludes by situating the distinction made between the two kinds of progress described above within the scholarship of postcolonial cinema, adaptation theory, and heritage film criticism. The theoretical and critical engagement provided suggests that adaptation transforms colonial texts for postcolonial purposes; thus, the nineteenth-century British novel can be used to engage creatively with contemporary global problems.
Chapter
Within African film studies, it has become commonplace to draw a distinction between the radical political agenda of the first African filmmakers, in the 1960s, and the more diffuse, less ideological interests of more contemporary filmmakers. In a decolonizing spirit that respects heterogeneity, this chapter aims to reveal the potential for alternative and more complex histories and herstories of African filmmaking to emerge, through the incorporation of new methodologies that draw together the overlapping activities of theory and practice. Through revisiting the early writings of African filmmaker/scholar Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, it starts with the concept of bricolage – a concept which embraces the epistemic potential of undisciplining boundaries between theory and immersion in the “object” of one's theorizing – festivals, in Vieyra's case. The chapter then traces acts of bricolage through the history of African film scholarship, emphasizing in particular acts of bricolage by female thinkers and filmmakers who have too frequently been erased from accounts of African film history. In the contemporary moment, the chapter argues, these acts of bricolage have contributed to a “curatorial turn” in film scholarship more broadly. Instead of simply writing about and interpreting films in conventional ways, many scholars have become aware both of the power and pleasure involved in approaching films from curatorial perspectives that allow for a more personal, embodied, and emotional response to films. At the same time, the chapter emphasizes the continued importance of conventional film criticism to our methodology as film scholars, since critique can allow the necessary distance to consider, rigorously, the object of study in all its dimensions and depth.
Article
Full-text available
This article focuses on a phenomenon of technical innovation that has spread quickly in Tanzania in the past couple of years: the translation of films in languages such as English or Hindi/Urdu into Swahili, the official language of Tanzania. This article discusses this phenomenon through the life and work of Hemed Musa from Masasi, a young man who acquired his skills in autodidactic ways through experimenting with new technologies and software that he accessed primarily via the Internet. His work is a good example of the decentralization of cultural output in Tanzania, as he does not work for companies that distribute films at national level, but rather works independently and disseminates his films at local level. The demand for films translated into Swahili has grown considerably in recent years, making films without translation increasingly difficult to sell. This reflects an increasing eagerness on the part of Tanzanian audiences to understand and not just to see what is going on in other parts of the world, which has been enabled by the availability of new technologies. The rising popularity of translated films raises the question of how it transforms the film-viewing culture in Tanzania and in what ways it might contribute to the empowerment of especially the younger generation.
Article
Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture addresses what may be the single most important question facing all kinds of performance today. What is the status of live performance in a culture dominated by mass media? Since its first appearance, Philip Auslander's ground-breaking book has helped to reconfigure a new area of study. Looking at specific instances of live performance such as theatre, rock music, sport, and courtroom testimony, Liveness offers penetrating insights into media culture, suggesting that media technology has encroached on live events to the point where many are hardly live at all. In this new edition, the author thoroughly updates his provocative argument to take into account new digital and media technologies, and cultural, social and legal developments. In tackling some of the last great shibboleths surrounding the high cultural status of the live event, this book will continue to shape discussion and to provoke lively debate on a crucial artistic dilemma: what is live performance and what can it mean to us now?
Ninth Edition of Bergman Week, http:// bergmancenter. se/en/bergman-week/history/bergman-week-2012
  • Bergman Center
Survey of Content and Audiences of Video Halls in Uganda 2005,’ research report funded by the Embassy of the United States of America in Uganda
  • K Marshfield
  • M Van Oosterhout
Video Hall Morality: A Minor Field Study of the Production of Space in Video Halls in Kampala
  • P Bergenwall