We are in one of the breakaway rooms of the conference center at the five-star Kampala Serena Hotel in Uganda, but the conversation is about Luweero, located two hours by road from Kampala.
Natasha Karugire, the eldest daughter of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, speaks breathlessly, her thoughts coming thick and fast, as she moves from one staccato sentence to another.
She is talking animatedly about the feature film, 27 Guns, she is currently making on Uganda’s ‘Bush War’, and 1981, when the young Museveni went into hiding as part of the National Resistance Army (NRA).
“He and 42 other men had only 27 guns between them, but what they had was faith and hope and fire,” says the 41-year-old mother of four, who started out as a fashion designer and has now scripted the film and is directing it. It is expected to premiere in February. When we meet her in September, she has been filming for two weeks, with an all-Ugandan crew and cast.
Karugire’s creative energy is palpable as she speaks passionately about the project that has seen her literally live in the bush in Luweero, re-enacting the guerrilla war in which her father played a lead role. The NRA was based in different parts of Luweero for five years.
“It’s time we tell our own stories, and not wait for someone to come and tell it in a different voice, from a skewed perspective,” she says of the reason she started her film production company Isaiah 60 in March 2017.
“We have epic tales in Africa, and for us starting with Uganda, we have just such big stories… But you know the saddest thing for me is that our own citizens, a lot of the time, are unaware.”
She laments the tendency among the young to endorse the Western narrative.
“Whenever a story is being told by Hollywood about Africa, it’s so generic, there is a way that it’s told, the song that is played… And in your heart, you are feeling this is just not us, we are not only about this, there is so much more to the people of Africa… I think this film is our way of saying, ‘this is how we say it’.”
Growing up, Karugire says she was always artistic. “I draw, I sketch, take pictures and write poetry.”
At university, she studied fashion, design and marketing. She was barely 22, when she started her own business in Uganda’s non-existent fashion industry. She struggled.
“I started out in Uganda, when fashion was not understood,” she says simply. She got married at 24, and started a family. Her eldest child is now 16 and youngest five.
Her husband Edwin, a lawyer, supported her “strange artistic journeys”.
But throughout her stint in the fashion business, Karugire kept asking herself if she was doing something she was passionate about and that kept her up at night.
“Almost the day I turned 40, something just happened,” says Karugire of her epiphany, that she should make a film about the struggle. Up until then, she had been putting together video clips, culled from old footage, for friends and family who loved them.
“I started reading my father’s books and I prayed, because we are Christians, my first point of call always is to ask God, that’s when I started writing a script for the first time,” she says.
“I realized I could not go to bed, I could not talk about anything else , and that’s when it hit me that this is my passion.”
Soon, Karugire met a producer in England, but “she was patronizing about the story”, saying it would probably be good for Ugandans and the region but not the international market.
Determined, she pressed on and started filming.
“It has such been a walk, quite a journey on so many levels , but right now, our faith is reaffirmed,” she says.
Funding for the film, she says, has come from people who believe in the story.
“But we are still looking for investors,” she tells us at the interview.
In the film, Karugire’s youngest sister, Diana Kamuntu, plays the role of the First Lady.
Talent, it seems, runs in the family.