The Ugandan project on feminist and human rights activist Stella Nyanzi was selected at the 12th edition of Durban FilmMart, and is set to take part in IDFA 2021 with a slate of industry activities, tailored mentorship and consultations.
Dr Stella Nyanzi is a Ugandan feminist and human rights activist, scholar, and poet, whose writing on Facebook landed her in jail in 2017 for insulting the president Yoweri Museveni, who is in power for almost four decades. Director Patience Nitumwesiga's first feature-length documentary, The Woman Who Poked the Leopard, follows Nyanzi after she leaves prison, throughout her nomination and campaign for a Kampala Woman Member of Parliament position, her defeat, and flight to exile following kidnappings of opposition leaders and activists in the country, as well as her return and struggles to move forward.
"The IDFA Spotlight Award goes to a film that takes us into the world of the firebrand Ugandan activist Stella Nyanzi," IDFA Programmer Sarah Dawson, who awarded the project at Durban, wrote in her statement. "The powerful duo of feminist African filmmakers behind the camera boldly ask the question, is Uganda ready for someone as progressive as Stella, who will publicly defend queer rights and refuse to join popular political parties to stay true to her values while dealing with a context that is so conservative and populist?"
Nitumwesiga says: "Making this film has been hard and we've done it alone for a while. This award means we're not alone anymore. Now we have the affirmation and solidarity of such a progressive institution. It proves to us that the work of radical feminists from the global South is valued and is making its way to a global stage. And IDFA is putting a spotlight on it. We couldn't ask for more."
Rosie Motene, who is producing the project through Kampala-based Shagika Tales, adds: "We are thrilled and honored to have been acknowledged and awarded. Dr Stella Nyanzi's work is incredibly powerful and this award will help us amplify her voice and document her journey."