The second Backpack Journalism project took place in Northern Uganda, specifically in the towns of Lira and Gulu. During much of the 1990s and through the mid 2000s Northern Uganda was enmeshed in a brutal civil war that was waged, in part, by child soldiers. The ring leader of the rebellion was a man name Joseph Kony. Kony kidnapped children to fill the ranks of his army and forced those abducted to commit atrocities against family members so that they could never go home again and would never desert. Since the ending of the war, Church leaders have been working to bring these children (most of whom are now young adults) home to be reconciled with their communities. It is tough and painful work.
Several connections between Omaha and Uganda made it possible for us to reach out to some of these leaders. Many of them graciously agreed to be in our film. We called the film Mato Oput, which means “Justice and Reconciliation” in the Acholi language.
Shooting Mato Oput was difficult at many levels. Both the severity of the poverty and the tragic nature of the story are overwhelming, and there were indeed moments when we were all overwhelmed.
As filmmakers we learned a lot about the value of patience during this project. Many of the images in this film were obtained only after hours of travel on barely-existing roads in extreme heat. Lesson Learned: If you are a producer, ignore your team when they tell you they can’t do another day.