Punishment Island – the documentary

Laura Cini, an ex Edirisa Volunteer,  has been making a documentary about Punishment Island on Lake Bunyonyi. Here is her account of her experience:-

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“Since I volunteered for Edirisa in 2009 to film a short documentary about crafts makers,  my life has been haunted by an idea: documenting the story of Akampene. Akampene is a tiny island on Lake Bunyonyi in South-West Uganda where un-married, pregnant young women were abandoned by their fathers/brothers and left to die in an attempt to shun the shame they brought to their family. What struck me immediately was that nobody had tried to research the story before. The only further information I gleaned from the older members of the local Bunyonyi community was that on occasion poor men, unable to afford to ‘buy’ a wife, would pick up one that had been left on Akampene island. So, I decided to document the whole story.

Two years ago I convinced a camera operator to invest his time, and his equipment, in the crazy mission of finding survivors. Next, I wrote the script, which I developed in Nairobi thanks to a program run by European Media, and I spent a year looking for funds. The market is tough and no broadcaster or documentary foundation will come on board if they don’t see a rough cut. So last year we started another crazy adventure, crowd funding on the web (http://www.ulule.com/punishmentisland). In the end we managed to raise over €10.000  for the filming thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

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In February this year we finally went to Lake Bunyonyi with an International crew plus two wonderful local translators. It was tough, from many points of view. Our first and greatest challenge was finding the women who had been left to die on Akampene Island. But find them we did. Then came the next challenge, convincing them to share the story. As it happened this was easier than I had anticipated!  As the women listened to each other it was clear they found it easier to share their own experiences.

And so the next step is to edit a rough cut and present it to all broadcasters and foundations that expressed interest.

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Now we face our next challenge. We need to raise money for the last part of production and post-production. “Punishment Island” won’t be a traditional documentary; the crazy difficulties experienced during research will be part of the narrative and the story will be reconstructed from a point of view inspired by the local animist traditions. Apart from concentrating on finishing the film, I am also thinking about an outreach campaign run by local teachers with screenings at local schools to spark off dialogue about equal rights. I wish the film to become a local educational tool focusing on gender issues and a way to raise public awareness about vulnerable women in remote parts of the world. If that would happen, this massive and crazy mission will have been worth it.”

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We wish Laura every success and look forward to seeing the documentary.

“Punishment Island” is not Laura’s first documentary. As she mentioned in her account above, she worked with Edirisa on a Craft Documentary. In September 2012 a viewing was held in one of Edirisa UK’s nursery classrooms and the craft women involved travelled from all around Lake Bunyonyi to view Laura’s finished work. This was the first time most of them had ever seen themselves on film!

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