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UCU alumna’s film makes mark at international film festivals

By Eriah Lule
Miika is a 14-year-old fictional character living in northern Uganda. As the story goes, her family had enough of the tyranny of the government forces and she took matters into her hands to save the day.

This 3D short animated film by the same name as the main character, “Miika,” is the darling of international film festivals and written and directed by Uganda Christian University (UCU) alum Shevon Nsiimenta. Already, it has won the Best Animation Film Category at the CineOdyssey Film Festival.

And that is not all. Nsiimenta says her film that lasts a little over five minutes has received a nomination at two other festivals, was a finalist at the Auber International Film Festival and also got an Official Selection at yet another festival – the Flickfair Film Festival.

At the Los Angeles International Film Festival, Nsiimenta was a nominee for the Best First Time Female Director, and her film, “Miika,” got a nomination for the Best Animation Film. All this is happening before the film hits the cinemas. Nsiimenta says it should be released soon.

Shevon Nsiimenta, UCU alum and film maker
Shevon Nsiimenta, UCU alum and film maker.

The inspiration for Nsiimenta’s storyline is from the experience of watching or hearing about women and children who always end up as the primary victims of war and tyranny. And Uganda has lots of tales to tell about civil strife and tyrannical regimes.

From 1986 to 2006, there was civil war in northern Uganda, orchestrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group and terrorist organization. As a result of the war, many women in northern Uganda suffered rape, torture, murder, forced marriages and domestic violence.

The regime of former Ugandan President Idi Amin, which was from 1971 to 1979, has been largely described as tyrannical. It is, therefore, not surprising that Nsiimenta’s film is set in northern Uganda during the reign of Amin.

Since Nsiimenta loves movies, it became the natural medium for her to use to document the haunting tales and offer lessons on how one can easily see the back of the resulting trauma.

Despite the haunting tale of desperation that Miika’s family faced, Nsiimenta explains that she wanted to pass a message that no matter the number of horrors an individual faces, they can always turn tables on the oppressors.

“I chose a 14-year-old to deliver the family from its horrors because at that age, they are still innocently bold enough to take on the world,” says Nsiimenta, a 25-year-old graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communication at UCU.

Miika is a short form for Malaika – a name that means Angel in Uganda.

“Indeed, I wanted Miika to be the angel for her family,” Nsiimenta, a scriptwriter, explains.

Perhaps, the success that “Miika” has so far achieved would not have been possible without the contribution of Kemiyondo Coutinho, a Ugandan playwright, actress and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.

In 2020, Kemiyondo launched an initiative to help up-and-coming Ugandan female filmmakers to bring their stories to life on screen. In a venture that saw her look to raise over $25,000 to be shared among five women to help facilitate the making of a five-minute short film, Kemiyondo reached well-wishers who were able to answer positively to her cause. That is how the production of “Miika” and other four short films got financed.

Nsiimenta is the daughter of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Sheldon Mwesigwa, the Bishop of Ankole Diocese in western Uganda and former Chairperson of UCU University Council. She attended Mbarara Preparatory School in western Uganda, before relocating to central Uganda, where she attended Kampala Parents School, Gayaza High School and, later, UCU. Nsiimenta says UCU instilled in her a sense of discipline, self-respect and smartness, virtues she has found useful in her professional and personal life.

But she also had something to learn from those who taught her. “I also had admirable women to look up to in my faculty. Prof. Monica Chibita and Dr. Emilly Maractho served as wonderful examples to base my image on at the workplace,” she says.

She currently works as the Executive Advertising Assistant at Roofings Uganda Limited, a manufacturer of steel and construction materials in Uganda.