Home > Bufuka Nursery, Documentaries, Education, Fundraising, The Heart, Uncategorized, Volunteers > Punishment Island – the documentary

Punishment Island – the documentary

Laura Cini, an ex Edirisa Volunteer,  has been making a documentary about Punishment Island on Lake Bunyonyi. Here is her account of her experience:-

Punishment Island

Punishment Island

“Since I volunteered for Edirisa in 2009 to film a short documentary about crafts makers,  my life has been haunted by an idea: documenting the story of Akampene. Akampene is a tiny island on Lake Bunyonyi in South-West Uganda where un-married, pregnant young women were abandoned by their fathers/brothers and left to die in an attempt to shun the shame they brought to their family. What struck me immediately was that nobody had tried to research the story before. The only further information I gleaned from the older members of the local Bunyonyi community was that on occasion poor men, unable to afford to ‘buy’ a wife, would pick up one that had been left on Akampene island. So, I decided to document the whole story.

Two years ago I convinced a camera operator to invest his time, and his equipment, in the crazy mission of finding survivors. Next, I wrote the script, which I developed in Nairobi thanks to a program run by European Media, and I spent a year looking for funds. The market is tough and no broadcaster or documentary foundation will come on board if they don’t see a rough cut. So last year we started another crazy adventure, crowd funding on the web (http://www.ulule.com/punishmentisland). In the end we managed to raise over €10.000  for the filming thanks to the generosity of our supporters.

In February this year we finally went to Lake Bunyonyi with an International crew plus two wonderful local translators. It was tough, from many points of view. Our first and greatest challenge was finding the women who had been left to die on Akampene Island. But find them we did. Then came the next challenge, convincing them to share the story. As it happened this was easier than I had anticipated!  As the women listened to each other it was clear they found it easier to share their own experiences.

And so the next step is to edit a rough cut and present it to all broadcasters and foundations that expressed interest.

Now we face our next challenge. We need to raise money for the last part of production and post-production. “Punishment Island” won’t be a traditional documentary; the crazy difficulties experienced during research will be part of the narrative and the story will be reconstructed from a point of view inspired by the local animist traditions. Apart from concentrating on finishing the film, I am also thinking about an outreach campaign run by local teachers with screenings at local schools to spark off dialogue about equal rights. I wish the film to become a local educational tool focusing on gender issues and a way to raise public awareness about vulnerable women in remote parts of the world. If that would happen, this massive and crazy mission will have been worth it.”

Laura (left) with some of her team

Laura (left) with some of her team

We wish Laura every success and look forward to seeing the documentary.

“Punishment Island” is not Laura’s first documentary. As she mentioned in her account above, she worked with Edirisa on a Craft Documentary. In September 2012 a viewing was held in one of Edirisa UK’s nursery classrooms and the craft women involved travelled from all around Lake Bunyonyi to view Laura’s finished work. This was the first time most of them had ever seen themselves on film!

Phionah laughing at herself

Phionah laughing at herself

Watching the video

Watching the video

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  1. April 9, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks, Laura, for the the article about the Akampena island ( punishment highland). However, I would like to suggest that you frame the story in terms of the progress Uganda has made since then, on the subject of human equality and gender. While Uganda still has work to do, to secure equal rights for women, we have come a long way in just a few decades. Framing it in this light will give people hope and morale to continue on the right path. I also want to advise you to be careful of the language you use.If you make more research about the African tradition and our traditional norms, you will discover that we never bought women. We never looked at women as commodity to buy instead we payed dowry, which I feel that people have often misinterpreted. Dowry was given to the woman’s family as a thank you gift for raising their daughter and at the same time the new married couple would be given back some of the cows a man would have brought to the wife family, to support them as they start their marriage together.. History says that many decades ago even in England women who became pregnant before they got married were also mistreated but there has been progress since then so lets also capture the positives the Ugandan people are making about gender equality when we are writing such articles.

  2. Laura
    April 9, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Thanks for your comment and I will think about what you said. All I want to do is though is tell the story of women who were brought to the island and tell it from a particular point of view.All culture have been bad to women, not only in Uganda. But this is an amazing story which needs to be told in the name of all women who died there. The women were taken in Akampene because they were free from the brideprice, so they were free. This is a matter of fact, but I am more interested in connecting people with the truth of their stories and to their identity. I feel that when the whites came they cut out everything that had been there before and that’s why it is so difficult to talk about Akamapene today. All I am trying is to get some closer to who they really were, good or bad, that’s matter, but faithful to ones identity. And sorry to disagree, but I think situation in Uganda for women is still bad, especially in terms of school girls giving for marriage to older men and that majority of women things it is a right for men to beat them for silly thing like burning the dinner. But my documentary won’t go into this, just hoping to be a platform for discussion.

  3. Laura
    April 10, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Wrote quickly out of passion, many spelling mistakes, sorry!

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