How Musician Bobi Wine Fights Tyranny With Love

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The documentary “Bobi Wine: Ghetto President,” which premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, centers on a man’s quest for freedom and justice for his country, but at the heart of the film is a love story. type Talked to the filmmakers and unveiled the trailer, the first time any footage has been released.

Directed by Christopher Sharp and Moses Bwayo and produced by Sharp and Oscar winner John Bartsk, the film follows musician Bobby Wien as he attempts to overthrow the authoritarian regime of Uganda President Yoweri Museveni .

Sharp has a personal relationship with Uganda: his father and he were both born there, and he spent most of his childhood in the country. In 2017, just after the musician became a member of Congress, he met Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi.

“I just fell for him: his optimism, his determination, his bravery. And then, his amazing wife Barbie…I just don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like them before,” he said. “I spent some time with him and Barbie and said, ‘We just need to make a movie about you guys.’”

Sharp started the project with British photographer Sam Benstead, who decided to quit at short notice, and Benstead was replaced by Italian photographer Michele Sibiloni , the latter also withdrew. In the end, Sharp was introduced to Bwayo, and he persevered until the end, at a huge personal cost. “Because of the regime and the level of torture and intimidation they had, because of some of those issues, these people couldn’t go ahead with the project,” Bwayo said of his predecessor.

“Bobi and Barbie made it totally accessible to us,” Sharp said. “There’s really nothing they wouldn’t let us shoot. We shot thousands of hours of footage and then spent two years in the editing room trying to figure out what movie we were going to make.”

The film follows Wine as he intensifies his campaign against Museveni, eventually running for president in the January 2021 election. Along the way, he and supporters of his National Unity Platform party, dubbed by Wine as a “people power” movement, were detained and beaten multiple times. The police and military crackdown on anti-government protests has resulted in dozens of deaths.

Central to the film’s story is Vine’s relationship with his wife, Barbie, and their children. “We obviously wanted to give Barbie and the kids as much space as possible. We didn’t want it to be just a political drama about another tyrant. We wanted it to be more personal,” Sharp said.

Bobi Wine escapes from police in Kampala, Uganda

Courtesy of Bobi Wine: President Ghetto

The decision meant the documentary wasn’t as hit as it could have been.

“When Poppy saw the movie, he said, ‘You make it look less bad. There’s almost no violence in it,’” Sharp said. “We photographed people who had their fingers cut off, their tongues cut off, their eyes gouged out, they were beaten. In the end, we decided to really tell the story through Bobi and Barbie and the people around them. We thought it would be more impactful force, but it doesn’t show how brutal [the regime is] and so many bad things happening to a lot of people around [Bobi and Barbie]. ”

Sharp paid tribute to Bwayo, saying he was “unbelievable” and “put himself in great danger”. But Bwayo prefers to be grateful for the opportunity to tell the story. “It’s been quite a journey and I must say it’s been a blessing to be a part of it because I believe Bobi Wine and the People Power movement came at a time when Uganda needed a voice like his,” he said. “Bobi Wine does attract the largest segment of our population, the young people.” More than 77% of Uganda’s population is under 30 years old.

He added: “The population [overall] been oppressed for a long time. they feel they have no voice or place in politics; [the country is] Economically divided, now. They feel, yes, he speaks for them, stands up for them. “

Although Bwayo has a crush on Wine and his wife “I have to know, yes, it’s actually a story worth telling, and falling in love with Poppy and Barbie, and their stories,” he said — keeping his distance from the campaign itself, though it didn’t save him Not to pay for his association with them.

“Of course, from the beginning, I made a very conscious decision not to be an activist, or not to be a story myself,” he said. “But having said that, actually, these things happened to me too. I mean, I’m in LA now. I can’t live in Uganda anymore because of this movie. Not bad. I’m grateful I’m this Part of the movie, it’s a sacrifice and a very conscious decision I made. Because change doesn’t come easily. There has to be a sacrifice, honestly, if you want to be a car [for change]if you want to be involved in change…of course you can’t be reckless, but you have to put your life at risk, or [put yourself] Changes that affect places like Africa and Uganda under these circumstances. “

He said the explicit threats to Bwayo were “multiple”, but he was also physically attacked and detained. He and his wife are applying for asylum in the U.S. “We can’t live in Uganda anymore. I’ve been hit in the face; I’ve been arrested; I’ve been locked up for days. I’ve been followed and intimidated.”

How Musician Bobi Wine Fights Tyranny With Love Bobi Wine Ghetto President 003 1

Poppy and Barbie in “Bobbie: Slumdog President”

Courtesy of Bobi Wine: President Ghetto

However, he considers himself lucky as no footage has been released until now. “Fortunately, when we made the film, we didn’t put out anything [online or on television]. So, that really keeps me safe because the regime isn’t seeing any real results. “

However, “safe” in Uganda is a relative term. He added: “Journalists, and anyone in Uganda committed to exposing the regime, you are a direct threat to the system.” So they are intimidated and attacked. “I mean, I got shot in the face myself. If it wasn’t for the camera in front of me, I might have lost my eyes. Right here [he points to a scar]. My jaw will be shattered, or… I don’t know. He added that he was shot on November 6, 2020, and was arrested around the end of February, early March 2020. “Moses and Bobi and all of these people were very brave,” Sharp said.

Bwayo said he had the opportunity to quit the project, but chose to continue. “I’m becoming more and more aware that as a Ugandan I need to say something, I need to be part of this era. Bobi represents a revolution, right?”

He referred to “lawlessness of the state” and the military’s willingness to shoot anyone who dared to protest in the streets, as it did when Win was arrested on November 18, 2019. “People lost their lives, [including] Women, children, people who are not actually protesting in the streets. So, the repression is really at a point where you choose…or do it or die, you know? “

Bwayo took the footage out of the country very carefully, sending drives to Sharp through friends every few weeks. “I will have multiple [memory] Cards at the time of the shoot, I’ll put them where they can’t find it. I never carried these lenses with me in the first place. I’ll give it to others, people are traveling to Chris. The internet in Uganda is terrible, so it’s hard to send over the internet. And intimidation, so even people I know are avoiding me, so there are very few people in my circle you can trust. “

Sharp traveled in and out of Uganda himself and handled all shoots outside the country, including wine trips to Paris, Berlin and New York.

As mentioned earlier, the heart of the film is a love story between gentle wives, but that wasn’t the plan at the start of filming. “Honestly, it came out of the editing room. We really didn’t want to just have a political fight: this kind of brave man would fight a dictator,” Sharp said. “As we started going through and organizing them, we realized that the more interesting stories were their love stories and seeing the pain through them, rather than showing people who had their fingers cut off. It just felt more poignant. To me and Moses The biggest goal is that we just want people to understand what’s really going on.”

In January 2021, Ugandan election officials announced that Museveni had won the presidential race with 59 percent of the vote, while Vahn had won with 35 percent of the vote, despite Mr. Vahn’s claims of widespread voting fraud.

Sharp also claimed the election was fraudulent. “The Americans couldn’t send out the monitors, neither did the EU. All the reporters showed up. They said: “It’s a fraud. This guy was robbed and the people of Uganda were robbed,’” he said.

Western leaders’ response to the crackdown has been muted, and the United States and the European Union have continued to provide millions of dollars in aid to the Ugandan government. Where the money ultimately goes is a matter of debate. The fact that Museveni has sent thousands of soldiers to Somalia makes him a potential Western ally in the region, which could affect how much they challenge his brutality at home.

The military is key to Museveni’s hold on power, Bwayo said. “The army is like a tool [Museveni] To protect himself from his people, the longer he stays in power, the longer he becomes a problem for the region and the world itself,” he said.

“So I hope people will see that this government is not a government to be trusted. For a long time he has been saying things and promising things that will not happen. Uganda is not a democracy. It is a fake democracy. They organize Elections, not for elections, just to show democracy to the world, but not like that.”

“Bobby felt that the West had let him down because he was pro-democracy and straightforward in everything he did,” Sharpe said. “And he really thought the West would have his back. They didn’t. He’s an optimistic guy, so he cheered up. But it’s a huge disappointment for us. [Bobi and Barbie], because he thinks people will actually be happy to have a democratic process, which he thinks is important. But it wasn’t and it was hard for him. “

He added: “When Poppy saw the film, he said: ‘You make it so sad.’ [I replied:] ‘Bobbie, sorry. You won the election, you were robbed. All your friends have been in military detention for six months. Many of your friends died, suffered, and were sad. We can’t rotate it any other way. We just have to tell it as it is. You’re left behind and you move on, but we can’t make it a happy ending because it’s not a happy ending. “

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