Drugs, alcohol and other addictions are not popular topics in Ugandan media. Wizarts Media thought it was time to change this. In 2014, they produced the taboo-breaking documentary ‘Hooked’, in which Joe talks openly about his drug addiction. Since then, twelve episodes have been added that are broadcast throughout the country. Director Paul Kavuma: “After watching Hooked, people are more open about drugs.”

Young people dealing with drug or alcohol addictions also face a social problem in Uganda. Due to a lack of information, they wrongly assume they are on their own with their addiction and that medical care is unaffordable. Additionally, drugs are a great taboo in Uganda. Out of shame and lack of money many addicted young people and their parents prefer to keep their problems to themselves. “Where drugs are concerned, the media mainly focus on sensation, without explanation or context”, says Paul Kavuma, director at Wizarts Media. “We do not get to see the influence that drug abuse has on the families of these young people.”

Tour

In 2014, Paul Kavuma thought it was high time to spread more knowledge on addiction and treatment. It started with the documentary ‘Hooked’, which was awarded Best Documentary at the Uganda Film Festival. By now, with Free Press Unlimited’s support, this one-off documentary has grown into a series of twelve films that were broadcast on national television.

In Uganda this does not mean, however, that everybody is actually able to see the programmes. Wizarts Media decided to take matters into their own hands and organise viewings in remote Ugandan communities. Every time, one of the main characters comes along to answer questions from the audience. And it is contagious. Kavuma: “One boy, for example, offered to tell his story as well after watching ‘Hooked’ in the rehabilitation centre.”

Dialogue

So far, Wizarts Media has organised thirty viewings at locations such as schools, hospitals and a prison. Afterwards, Wizarts Media receives many telephone calls from people asking for more information or just wanting to talk about what troubles them. Often people from the audience spontaneously start talking about their own experiences with alcohol and drugs. At each location, the team also leaves DVDs and contact details for psychiatrists who provide free consultations.

Mutual understanding

The success of ‘Hooked’ does not mean Wizarts Media sits back and relaxes. It now turns its eyes to the neighbouring country of Burundi. In Uganda many people are suspicious of the growing number of Burundi refugees escaping the armed conflicts in their own country and coming to Uganda. This gave Wizarts a good reason to produce a new series on Burundi and the armed conflict going on in Uganda’s neighbouring country. Because they, like no other, have experienced how breaking taboos and stimulating dialogue helps to create and increase mutual understanding.