It is the theme of nearly every famous song, countless films and numerous TV-shows; there is nothing more universal than love.
Often, my work revolves around breaking news stories which are, I admit, most of the times not so positive. But in March I wasn’t covering any disaster or war. Instead, I was selecting Ugandan men who were dreaming of marrying a white woman.
Reluctant to join
When I first heard about the concept, I wasn’t sure if this would work. In ‘Around the world in 80 dates’ five women from Holland embark on a 7-country journey around the world, looking for the ‘mr. Right’ they can’t find at home. Off course ‘a country in Africa’ had to be one of the destinations, so I received a call to find out whether I could arrange something. We quickly agreed: Uganda was the place to be. I would arrange all logistics; which included the search for reliable candidates and filming locations. This job is called ‘fixing,’ though when you are more experienced you may be labelled a ‘local producer.’
The quest started. Using all personal connections I had built over the years, I soon found a good mix of types. 13 Guys all together would show up, trying to get a personal ‘date’ with one of the 5 single ladies. The shooting was going to take place not only in a poor neighbourhood’s local cinema known as video hall, but also at a brand-new golf course where upper class people spend their leisure time.
One large beauty shot
The invasion started. The five ‘movie-stars’ jetted in with their care-taker, followed by a crew of eight people. They came straight from Moscow; from -5 to +30 in one day. Most of the stars had never visited Africa before and were full of misconceptions. They were ignorant, ‘virgins’ in Africa so to speak.
We filmed a chimpanzee sanctuary, went clubbing on a Monday night –where else in the world would that be fun?- and had the usual inter-cultural and linguistic misunderstandings. It all ended in smiles. One morning I took one of the cameramen around Kampala for the so-called ‘beauty-shots.’ These shots are meant to show the city, giving people back home the feeling of a place. ‘Stop anywhere,’ the cameraman told the driver. ‘This city is one large beauty shot.’
After four hectic days of filming, the women had invited three Ugandan men to come to Holland to film the last episode. Love seemed to blossom, although it remains TV love. When asked to rate Uganda, 4 out of 5 film stars gave the country a nine (out of ten).
Wow. In the end, over 300.000 Dutch viewers have watched the Uganda episode, which was called ‘one large Uganda commercial,’ by the director himself. This is a different audience from the people who normally watch documentaries. Many viewers might never have thought about ever visiting any country in Africa. Now, I hope, they will.