Film showcases how dance, hip-hop unites Uganda, inspire student groups

Alayna Flor

In Uganda, dance is more than entertainment.

It’s helping save children’s lives, and uniting the country.

Tyler Stafford, senior in advertising, worked with Red Bull, Hope 4 Africa and the Student Union Board to bring students a free screening of “Bouncing Cats,” a multi-award-winning film showcasing the importance of dance to Ugandan youth.

“‘Bouncing Cats’ is about the youth in Uganda and how one guy, named Abrams, is using hip-hop and break-dancing to inspire these kids to have a better life and an identity outside of the bad things going on there now,” Stafford said.

IAbraham “Abramz” Tekya, a Ugandan b-boy and AIDS orphan created Breakdance Project Uganda in 2006. The dream was to establish a free workshop that would empower, rehabilitate and heal the community by teaching youth about b-boy culture, according to the synopsis on the ‘Bouncing Cats’ website.

“Uganda is in a civil war right now, and children are being used in the efforts,” said Moses Bomett, junior in economics. “Dancing has become a substitute for children getting into crime. They started something small and became big in the youth in Uganda.”

Bomett is the founder of Hope 4 Africa at Iowa State. Hope 4 Africa is a national organization that raises awareness and funds for children in Africa.

“I wanted to get involved with the ‘Bouncing Cats’ event because people don’t know a lot about Africa in general and what goes on,” Bomett said. “It’s a nice way to get out the stereotypes and problems in Africa. It’s also very hopeful and shows there is something better going on.”

The free screening event was made possible with quick organization efforts and use of social media to spread the word. Stafford worked with Red Bull to release the rights to the movie and allow the screening to be free to the public.

The Student Union Board also helped with room reservations, and Hope 4 Africa introduced the film and gave background information of what is occurring in Africa.

“We also had a lot of support from professors that teach dance classes, offering extra credit to students that attended. Dub-H, Iowa State’s hip-hop club, also supported the event,” Stafford said.

Stafford said he is pleased with the amount of student involvement.

“It was a great turnout, mostly because no one had heard of it before and it was mostly under the radar,” Stafford said. “You could see and hear reactions to the film.”

“It’s very hard hitting because the rebels in Uganda have done terrible things to the children and people. You could see the audience crying. Also at parts people laughed, and it was light-hearted. It brought out almost every emotion possible during one film.”

Bomett’s experience with the film was different. Bomett came from Africa to the United States four years ago.

“Coming from Africa myself and experiencing the life there, I want to work on getting the true stories out there,” Bomett said. “Things can be misleading because of the media, and this shows the other side of Africa that people don’t see. ‘Bouncing Cats’ shows how people want to change and use the talents they have to be better people.”

For those who did not make it to the screening, Hope 4 Africa aims to work with Red Bull next Fall to bring ‘Bouncing Cats’ back.

Screenings for the film have been occurring nationwide, and many are looking forward to a DVD release within the next year. In the meantime, students can check out the website for more information about the project.

“Just watching the trailer was moving. We hope to get the ball rolling with films like this and show more films in the future,” Stafford said.

“My favorite quote from the movie explains how dance and break dancing is being used as an avenue to solve serious problems,” Bomett said. “One of the b-boys said, ‘I’m not a soldier, so I’m not using a gun. I’m not a politician, so I don’t use politics. But I am a b-boy, so I will use dance.'”