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Calvin To Show Uganda Documentary
November 1 , 2006

As one in a series of refugee awareness events, a Calvin College professor’s award-winning documentary, “Drawings and War: The Testimony of the Children of Uganda” will be shown at 8 p.m. on Nov. 4 in the college’s Robert L. Bytwerk Video Theater.

The documentary will be preceded by a panel discussion about film and activism and followed by a conversation with Grace Akallo, a former child prisoner in Uganda’s civil war.

The event is a collaboration of several Calvin organizations: the Student Activities Office, the department of communication arts and sciences (CAS), the Social Justice Coalition, the Organization of Students in Social Work, the Film Arts Committee and the African and African Diaspora Studies minor.

The film—which won as “best documentary” at the Route 66 Film Festival—is the creation of Calvin CAS professor Daniel Garcia.

It distills the many interviews he did in the summer of 2005 with children kidnapped and forced into the service of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a paramilitary group waging a 20-year civil war against the Ugandan government.

“The rebels use children as carriers of goods, mules,” Garcia says. “They train them to become fighters. They force them to go to their own villages to abduct other children and even to kill their own relatives in order to cut all links with their past."

Garcia notes that the LRA does not make any distinction between boys and girls. Girls can also be given as “wives” of the commanders,” another term for sexual slavery.

The documentary follows Akallo, who was abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Lira, Uganda when she was 15 years old. Her story is intertwined with those of three other characters: James who was a soldier with the LRA for seven years; Agnes, who was given as a wife to one of the rebels and is now young mother trying to find a future; and Alex, who was able to escape and go back to his village, only to witness the killing of his parents.

The film also uses the drawings of abducted children to reconstruct the experience of a generation living in the midst of war.

Garcia made the film while he was teaching at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda. It was there he met Akallo, a student at the university who became his translator. Together they visited camps and conducted interviews with former abductees.

“I realized,” he says, “that she was the best mediator between me and them.” The duo collaborated on the film and the writing of the narration. Garcia also received help from his students at Calvin.

He hopes the film serves as a wakeup call.

“I think it’s another case in which the apathy of the international community and the ignorance of people in power regarding the foreign policy of nations has allowed another genocide, a genocide of children,” Garcia says. “It’s another instance that tells us the truth that all genocide doesn’t have to happen in gas chambers, and genocide doesn’t have to happen in the past. To know that this war has been going on for 20 years is an embarrassment, and it puzzles me and should puzzle everybody—particularly Christians."

~written by marketing and communications staff writer Myrna Anderson