Cinema of the Unrepresented: Fog of Bwindi, the Struggle of the Indigenous Batwa in South-Western Uganda
10 July 2017 | 19:30
Cinema Aventure | Rue des Fripiers 57, Brussels, Belgium
On 10 July 2017 at 19:30 the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) - with the generous support of the Nando and Elsa Peretti Foundation - will organise a screening of the documentary “Fog of Bwindi” at Cinema Aventure in Brussels. The documentary tells the story of the Batwa, who for thousands of years lived peacefully as hunter-gatherers in the Bwindi forest within the southwestern region of Uganda. In 1991, the Bwindi forest became a UNESCO world heritage site and was designated as a protected nature reserve. Batwa communities were forcefully evacuated from the forest upon its reclassification for alleged reasons of protecting biodiversity and the endangered mountain gorillas. Bwindi’s mountain gorillas have now become one of Uganda’s main tourist attractions, but at what cost? This documentary looks more closely at what, or rather who, is sacrificed when economic interests are placed above all others, including human rights. The screening will be followed by a questions and answers session with the filmmaker Anna Bohlmark, who joins us from Stockholm to offer additional insights into her experiences in Uganda.
This 24-minute film traces the struggle of the Batwa pygmies in Bwindi Forest following their eviction from their ancestral forest lands. Director Anna Bohlmark, a columnist and narrative movie producer based in Sweden, originally took the initiative to learn about the mountain gorillas living within the Ugandan national park, but it was not long before she discovered the striking human side to the story.
The Batwa have long survived as hunter-gatherers in small groups across Rwanda, Burundi, Eastern Congo, and Uganda. Following their eviction from their ancestral lands in Uganda, many Batwa live as tenants or squatters in nearby villages and farms. As is the case in Rwanda, they do not own land and do not generate enough income to move to central areas, and thus live in harsh poverty in both countries. The socioeconomic livelihoods of the Batwa depend on the forest. As indigenous forest-dwellers, Batwa people subsist on hunting and gathering, but their cultural and spiritual traditions are also deeply connected to the forest. When their ancestral homeland was cordoned off as a national park and they were evicted, their livelihoods were permanently affected well beyond the eradication of their food source. Eviction has had a devastating effect on the survival of the Batwa, as communities and families are fragmented and often homeless.
Under the mantle of “conservation” efforts, these governments are afforded opportunities to maintain national parks with the help of funding from international environmental organisations. Conservation initiatives attract funding from environmental organisations and are often endorsed by international entities because they are generally considered to benefit indigenous groups rather than hinder them. However, when an area is designated as a protected environment, the majority of implemented procedures do not extend to the protection of the people within that environment. The impacts of these conservation efforts strike an unsettling parallel with the circumstances of political refugees – in this case, they are environmental refugees.
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Uganda, 2015, Directed by: Anna Bohlmark, 25 mins, Documentary, English w/ English subtitles, Rated: G