Uganda’s Kemiyondo is “The Baker” in Apple TV+’s “Little America”
Friday January 31 2020
There is a little gem of a series hidden in the fast growing motion picture live-streaming industry called “Little America’’. It is an anthology of mixed emotions stories about the lives of a few real immigrants in the United States of America featuring on Apple’s new streaming service, Apple TV+. An anthology series is a collection of short motion picture stories under one theme but unconnected. If you have had the chance to watch Black Mirror or Love Death + Robots, then you know what I am talking about.
Little America was released on 17th January 2020 and I recently got a chance to watch it.
Within this gem is Episode 5; The Baker, which is a short story about a Ugandan lady, Beatrice Mukasa who, back in the 70s had the rare opportunity to go to the US for a chance at a far better life than the decent one she was leaving behind. As life has never been so simple, she, now a single mother, meets challenges on her path that almost make her throw in the towel; all while the answer to her success is something closer to her heart than she thinks. Beatrice Mukasa is a real person.
In this anecdote, Beatrice is portrayed by a Couthino Kemiyondo. Kemiyondo is a Ugandan actress, Playwright, filmmaker and Music enthusiast (A Ka Dope) based in Los Angeles. She is best known for the film “Kyenvu” which she wrote, directed and acted in. It is homage to the loud and very necessary #MeToo movement that has seen women all over the world speak out against sexual harassment. Indulge yourself in watching it and witness how Kemiyondo tells a story of a woman determined to exist in a world where she is constantly preyed upon. The revealing short film won the “Best narrative short film” award at the Pan African Film Festival.
WATCH: Coutinho Kemiyondo reviews Chobe Safari Lodge
As “The Baker’ in Little America, Kemiyondo takes us through Mukasa’s experience starting in 1971 Uganda when her family was excited with the opportunity of travelling to America for a chance at a better life. An opportunity that was achieved after a lot of sacrifice. Thereafter is a sharp transition from family comfort to reality’s well known but highly unexpected hit and then the efforts to overcome the shortfalls revealed.
The episode is “dressed” in “Uganda”. The title sequence that opens this jar of “cookies” is supported with a very Ugandan theme. A 1960s Uganda dance music song titled Fumbira Abaana by Kawaliwa & Mary. The time factor is quite fitting considering the episode is set in the 70s and maybe the 80s. Fumbira Abaana is a dialogue between partners who are in disagreement. The wife/lady is scolding her husband/partner over being a drunkard while he defends himself. It is both the opening and closing theme for the episode.
The use of the Luganda language in the episode does make it feel like home. It makes this episode feels like it is for us (Ugandans). The inclusion is satisfying.
On the other hand, the use of Luganda is the only problem with “The Baker”. Insignificant to the audience outside Uganda, Kemiyondo is not the best Luganda speaker. It is safe to say that she doesn’t speak and isn’t well-versed with the language. This is not surprising considering where she is based. Pronunciation of Luganda words or statements by Kemiyondo is a struggle and you are likely to rewind just to make out the words each time she speaks it.
However, there is more Ugandan goodness in Little America. Casallina Kisakye, a Ugandan-American writer is credited for the Teleplay of “The Baker”. According to IMDB, she has worked on projects like Preacher, Rake, Cult and Melrose Place. Legendary Ugandan actor, Phillip Luswata also features playing the character of Beatrice Mukasa’s father.
I was greatly impressed by Susan Basemera’s performance. If you do not know who this is, she is commonly called Lady Zani and is a musician known for the hit “Ndoowa” back in the late 2000s. In Little America, she portrays the character of Beatrice Mukasa’s mother.
It would be unfair for me not to mention Little Innocent Ekakitie a Nigerian-American child actor who portrays Brian the son to Beatrice Mukasa. He has his Luganda line in there.
Despite that one dent, “The baker” episode is a nicely done, very inspiring piece that reveals the reality facing those we believe are bound for greatness when they get on a plane and go do the “Kyeyo”. What’s the plan? Recent reports of mistreatment of Ugandans in the Middle East make this reality a little more hard to take on. However, if you are to go, against all odds, persevere until you overcome.