In the imaginary of the West, Africa is nothing more than safaris in the plains, jungles, civil wars and starving children with inflated bellies. iMANi shows how wrong is that idea. Three alternating but independent stories present different aspects of a country, Uganda, which could, in broad terms, be considered as a metonym for Africa. Each of the stories, fragmented in a classical introduction-conflict-climax-denouement structure, happens on the same day and represents, respectively, the rural, suburban and urban faces of life in Uganda.
Olweny is a 13 year-old boy from the far north, who must go back home to his family after spending some time rehabilitating at a shelter house for children of the war, an euphemism for soldier children, kidnapped and enrolled by force to join the rebels in one of the many wars devastating homes and families.
Mary, who lives in a suburban village 37 kilometers from Kampala, works as a servant for a rich couple in a luxurious detached house in the capital leaving her children under the care of her sisters. She also has to deal with one of her sister’s abusive husband, who is ruining his wife’s life.
Armstrong, raised in one of Kampala’s ghettos and now a popular break-dander who has travelled the world and climbed up the social ladder, decides to give a show at his old poor neighborhood, but he is afraid of having to confront the present ghetto chief, his old buddy Simon.
The three tales problematize issues like psychological trauma after the war, blame and forgiveness; rich-poor’s and man-woman’s different rights and dualities; domestic violence; free will versus life-stagnating determinants; solidarity and understanding; selfishness and loneliness.
In spite of the movie’s fictional and dramatic structure, the tranquil rhythm of the filming, the sceneries and the everyday-life images suggest a documentary in which there is not even one “white” character but where a Creole language describes England’s long influence in his former colony and serves as an ID for belonging to a social class depending on how much English is used.
Secondary characters like Ruth, Simon “the King”, the gardener, Lasty, etc., are crucial for the development of the plot and, although the stories present them in occasions in Manichean terms –nothing is what it looks like, though-, they fill the somehow achieved (1) aspiration of the director to give a general and objective view of her country.
The three stories remain without concluding or closing completely, as a reminder that life and society is a constant and organic system that must be nurtured and taken cared of day by day.
(1) Sarín, my companion at the watching of this film, professional photographer and compulsive traveler in Africa, confirms the movie’s authenticity and its coincidences with African real life.