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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Go see Kassim

We just saw an excellent film at the Tribeca Film Festival: Kassim the Dream. It's a documentary about Kassim Ouma, a Ugandan boxer and former soldier. He was kidnapped at age 6 by a rebel army, which later became the government army. He came to the U.S. to participate in an international military boxing competition--and he stayed, becoming a deserter to the Ugandan army that had forced him to join, and opening the way for a new, soaring career.

He's a remarkable person--witty, vivacious, decent and incredibly resilient. He's not presented as a pure victim or saint. As a child, he was forced to kill and torture--and he found some of that to be "fun"; his conscience developed later. The film shows an uneasy interplay between Kassim and the Ugandan authorities, as he seeks a pardon for desertion and permission to visit Uganda.

Kassim was present at the showing to answer questions, with filmmaker Kief Davidson. The audience was very impressed by the film and its subject. Davidson seems a thoughtful and very honest type, and Kassim was shy but engaging (though there was one lame question from the audience when a woman probed Kassim as to why he was seen on film wearing colors of Jamaica, not his native Uganda--as if he needed to prove his ethnic or national bona fides to her).

An interesting question is how the Ugandan government will react to this film, which notes that the present government emerged from the same force that kidnapped Kassim and committed numerous atrocities. One hopes the authorities in Kampala will take the diplomatic approach that this film is part of their troubled country's needed reconciliation.

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