The short animated film And Here Is War, Yet Again is the first in a series of Bidi Bidi Media Lab productions that will be released throughout 2021. Each film will document life inside one of the world’s largest refugee camps from the perspective of young filmmakers, actors, artists, and community activists who have been stripped of their agency and mobility, and forced to interact with the world from the outside looking in. The primary objective in creating this series of refugee-centered films is to challenge the outside world to listen to them.
Bidi Bidi Media Lab was conceived after a chance encounter at World Hygiene Day in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement, West Nile, Uganda. Richard Akim (aka Ray Styles) approached Sidd, Justin and I while we were documenting the event for a story on the world’s first permanent refugee settlement. We reconvened days later in Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement, where Ray lives, and there under the crown of a great tree that Ray uses as a makeshift classroom a collaboration began that would blossom into an ArtsEverywhere-supported project called the Bidi Bidi Media Lab.
Behind the Scenes
The challenges we faced—travel restrictions, quarantine, and technological barriers—prompted Ray to take the reins of the visual production. He built his own tripod with wooden pieces he collected and recorded the scenes with his mobile phone, which became the primary visual references for the future animations. We were modifying the initial script of the film on the fly. This meant that Ray was personally responsible for recording the soundtrack, the sound effects, and even himself, as narrator of the short.
Everything changed with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. What Ray and I had intended to flesh out together in the field in Uganda and with the ArtsEverywhere team turned into endless hours of Facebook Messenger meetings and downloading Wetransfer files, all of which was aggravated by the limited bandwidth of the free internet in Bidi Bidi.
The first stage of producing the animated short required gathering information and applying journalistic rigor to accurately document the story of Ray Styles—locating the story in time and placing his migratory process within the framework of the endless wars in South Sudan. His story was then condensed into a technical script, which was originally intended to become a non-fiction comic.
A journalistic approach to tell this story, let’s say, a traditional one, would fall short of the suffering caused by the war in South Sudan. So Ray and I decided that our stories should be that and more: slow journalism and art. Two transforming forces that are also gigantic.