I read pretty much everything I can get my hands on and I love movies. So preparing for my trip to East Africa started early and I did as much “research” as possible. Here are some of the books, movies and t.v. shows that were part of my preparation research, and some that I’ve picked up as follow-up since I’ve been back in the States.
The Teeth May Smile but the Heart Does Not Forget: Murder and Memory in Uganda by Andrew Rice - This is very likely one of my favorite books of all time. I read this book prior to going to Uganda – it gave me a great overview of the history of Uganda since independence, as well as a well-written cultural snapshot. I’ve already re-read this book after my return and found it even greater than the first read – descriptions are accurate, histories relevant.
Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children by Faith McDonnell and Grace Akallo – I have only read about half of this book because it is quite a hard read. Hard emotionally. This book tells not only the historical frame of the LRA-led fighting but the deeply personal story of Grace – a former child solider in Northern Uganda.
Land of a Thousand Hills: My Life in Rwanda by Rosamond Halsey Carr and Ann Howard Halsey - I haven’t read this yet but it has come highly recommended from others on my trip.
Rwanda, Inc: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World by Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond – Rwanda has made an incredibly economic turnaround in the last couple of decades. I’ve started this book since I’ve been home and hope to have a review shortly as well. It’s a little bit of a fluff piece – in that it’s super positive. The authors cover just enough of the history to explain the economic changes well – at it’s core, it’s about business. A fascinating read so far.
The Last King of Scotland – Released in 2006, this film covers the reign of dictator Idi Amin in the 1970s. Forest Whitaker won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Amin. While it’s based on the events of that tumultuous era in Uganda’s history, it is a good depiction of the time and filmed on location in Uganda – you get a good view of the landscape and cities.
Hotel Rwanda – Released in 2004, this film is based on the true events of a hotel manager in Rwanda who works to save members of his community during the 1994 genocide. Don Cheadle (Denver native!) was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina. I’ve watched this film several times prior to going to Uganda and Rwanda – I haven’t yet been able to watch it since I’ve been back, though we stayed at the actual hotel that this movie is about.
Bizarre Foods:Uganda – This episode was interesting…we also went to the Emin Pasha which is featured in this episode, and ate fried grasshoppers. But overall, I feel that Andrew Zimmern doesn’t accurately portray the culture of the country. (Okay okay, I know I only spent 3 weeks there…but still). For the show – he does pick outlier foods and situations to illustrate. So while interesting, keep it mind it’s not by any means an overview of the culture of Uganda. The dancing is accurate. Always lots of wonderful dancing.