February 2005 | May Lugemwa '04

May Lugemwa '04 (Producer & Writer, FORMER NATIONALITY)

As one of the first participants in the Harvardwood 101 program, May Lugemwa ‘04 is the perfect person to launch our member profile series. In a nutshell, May grew up in Uganda and Zimbabwe, moved to Alabama at 7 and then to Cambridge, Ma for college. It was at Harvard that May first discovered her interest in films and media. Studying VES, May was particularly drawn to films on her motherland and more generally the subject of ‘cultural filmmaking’. From May's perspective, African films were made in a paternalistic fashion, where Africa and African culture were often viewed as commodities. May decided to make her senior thesis project in contradiction to this trend of objectification. She set out with her mother to their village in Uganda, and began to film. She never had a particular storyline in mind, rather she hoped to make a film about Africans from the inside out. Ironically, she soon realized that she too was viewed as an outsider by her people.

During this time, May's mother continued to help her, and unexpectedly her mother slowly began to emerge as the film's protagonist. May discovered that her strongest link to the inside was through her mother, a silent, very private bystander. Despite the lack of electricity and rural climate, May finished shooting and returned to Harvard to put her film together. She describes bringing random snippets of film back to her advisor, Ross McElwee, and together they assembled the project. Former Nationality opened at the Amakula Film Festival in Uganda and has a good response here in the US. May plans to return to Uganda with her mother this year.

May can be reached at [email protected].

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