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The Nexus of Film and Activism in Kampala

At Skylight Pictures we spend a lot of time thinking about ways to heighten the impact of our films to increase awareness of human rights and justice issues.  For over 25 years we’ve been committed to the art of storytelling through the language of cinema – lush cinematography, music woven in to enhance the narrative, thoughtful editing that seamlessly transports the viewer through time and space – in the belief that it will bring audiences to a deeper level of engagement.

In recent years, as social media tools have proliferated, we’ve adapted many of them to our mission (an example is the international justice Twitter feed on the IJCentral map).  But because much of our outreach work is in developing countries, we also produce lo-tech projects designed to engage audiences on the ground, when traveling through cyberspace is not an option.  And that’s the reason that we’re going to the International Criminal Court Review Conference in Kampala with 1,000 Screening Kits of “The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court”, to give out free of charge to civil society organizations (CSOs), country delegations and the press (thanks to generous support from Humanity United and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation).  The Kits are in English and French, and include:

  • The Reckoning (60-minute version)
  • ICC and Africa (20-minute film)
  • Peace & Justice (20-minute film)
  • Screening/Discussion Guide (pdf)
  • Audience Survey Form (pdf)
  • FAQs about the ICC (pdf)

The impetus to make the Screening Kits came from 180 African CSOs that signed a petition to protest the African Union (AU) declaration of non-cooperation with the ICC with regard to the arrest warrant it issued for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.   And while the international press focused on the AU declaration and its critique of the ICC, the pushback against impunity coming from the CSOs wasn’t getting any attention.  The CSOs we’re saying that the AU wasn’t offering the victims any justice alternative to the ICC, effectively declaring Africa an “impunity zone”.  They wanted to raise public awareness of how the ICC works and how it operates as a court of last resort.

So we reached out to the CSOs to see if we could produce a media tool they could use to increase awareness the role that the ICC can play in the battle against impunity. In coordination with Pivot Pictures (a media initiative of the International Center for Transitional Justice – ICTJ) we coordinated with the ICTJ country offices in Kenya, Uganda, Morocco and South Africa to work out what materials and themes to include in the Kit, and after a period of exchanging ideas and getting feedback from the CSOs on 2 short films we produced for the project, we arrived at the menu listed above.  Now the CSO’s will receive their Screening Kits and go forth to use them – we’ve created an online Screening Report form for the CSOs to use, which will help us all to track the use of the Kits and the impact they are having.

The Kampala ICC Review Conference (RC) is an extraordinary opportunity to have massive impact with “The Reckoning” and a range of short films and microdocs we produced about international justice themes.  We will be screening all this material non-stop at the RC Media Centre, and also have several screenings planned at the People’s Space, where CSOs from around the world will be gathered for 2 weeks to discuss the ICC.  There will also be a Kampala theatrical Premiere of “The Reckoning” at Watoto Church on June 1, followed by a national broadcast on Ugandan national television (UBC) on June 2.

And watch for our video blogs at the RC, which will be posted daily on IJCentral.

Paco de Onís

Paco is the Executive Director and Executive Producer of Skylight, a human rights media organization dedicated to advancing social justice through storytelling by creating documentary films and media tools that can applied in long-term strategies for positive social change.

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