Ugandan Police Shut Down Festival Before THE COMMITMENT Screened
December 15, 2017
The Commitment, written and directed by Albert, did not have its planned Ugandan premiere at Queer Kampala International Film Festival on December 10, 2017. On December 9, Ugandan police raided and forcibly closed the Queer Kampala International Film Festival, the first ever and only LGBTQI themed film festival to open up in Uganda. The festival featured films and documentaries portraying the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people. Police offered no formal legal basis for forcibly shutting down the festival. Organizers are determined to complete the festival and communicate a new date and venue to trusted community members.
The festival organizer, Kamoga Hassan, told Human Rights Watch that the opening night was successful. A large audience responded positively to the films, he said, which included stories of LGBTIQ people coming to terms with their identities, fighting discrimination, engaging in activism, and falling in love. Organizers had hoped the stories shown during the festival would help to educate Ugandans about communities that face discrimination and marginalization in their country.
On December 9, shortly before the films began, organizers received a tip-off that police intended to raid the festival and arrest participants if they did not disband. The organizers asked participants to leave. Shortly thereafter, three police officers entered the venue and told organizers that they were shutting down the festival because the films – many of which have received international acclaim – were "pornographic," Hassan said.
Uganda's criminal code includes a colonial-era law prohibiting "carnal knowledge against the order of nature" with possible sentences of up to life in prison. The law very rarely leads to prosecutions, but police have used it as a pretext to shut numerous events targeting LGBT audiences and their allies over the past several years, such as the entire 2017 annual Pride Week scheduled events, parades and a fashion show in previous Pride Weeks, and a human rights education workshop in 2012.
The Commitment stars Albert M. Chan and Jason Lane Fenton as gay adoptive parents, Mary Niederkorn as the social worker facilitating the adoption, and Kerri Patterson as the Asian-American birthmother. Richard Propes of The Independent Critic wrote, "Emotional resonance, joy and heartbreak...indeed, this is a film that would be difficult to pull off if not for its tremendously talented cast." The film has screened at 30 film festivals on four continents and won multiple awards, most notably edging out Oscar®-nominated Moonrise Kingdom to win a 2013 NASW Media Award. The film is available at Amazon.com on the compilation Green Briefs. The film is produced by Albert M. Chan, Richard Possemato, Aaron Howland, and Seth Howland.