We Lost Lutelo

Journal Entry – September 8, 2014

There was a crowd of older women – mothers and grandmothers – gathered around Isaac this morning. The tone was sombre. I know to leave him alone at times like these. He is becoming a village elder and there are times when Wakaliga needs him more than I do.


He told me that Lutelo, one of our Kung Fu guys, has disappeared and that his family fears the worst. People disappear all the time in the slum, but they are usually just escaping their day-to-day lives to find fortune elsewhere. This is different. Isaac fears he was murdered.

Wakaliga is a relatively safe place. Children play freely and everyone knows each other. Kampala can be different, tho. And Lutelo works as a bouncer.

He knows how to handle himself. Lutelo has that confident-yet-gentle demeanor that I’ve see in many Sifus and Kung Fu masters. But all you need is that one person. And if they are from another African country, say South Sudan or DR (Democratic Republic of Congo), the Police will do little if anything to interfere or investigate. Or, so I am told.


I walked by his home at sunset. It’s right where I took my first dive into the raw sewage, three long years ago. Women were crying and digging for clues in his clothing.

The family is hopeful. Isaac is not.

Journal Entry – September 29, 2014

Stumbled across this missing person’s sign in downtown Kampala, posted by Lutelo’s family. I was picking up a batch of the new movie posters.


I’m reminded, each and every day, that we’re on a mission. Nothing is going to change without the films. Without getting Alex out there. Isaac is fond of quoting President Museveni, when times are tough. “You don’t stop fighting until the war is over.”

Alex will mark the beginning of their story, I think. A beginning that was 10 years in the making. Or maybe it’s just ‘the beginning of the beginning,’ as Isaac likes to joke.

Journal Excerpt – December 21, 2014

Nothing. Still nothing.

Kung Fu, Machine Guns, and Mosquitoes

Journal Excerpt – Monday, September 9, 2013

Morning. Still no electricity or running water, but the night was cool and I finally figured out how to fight the mosquitoes. Just keep the window open. Sounds counter-intuitive, but they fly in and out that way. Had my first peaceful sleep in weeks.


It’s a five-minute walk thru the mud to Wakaliwood. When I arrive I see Bukenya Charles (Uncle Benon) teaching Kung Fu to a small group of children. His classes are normally on weekends, but school is out. He’s making himself available every day this week to help the local kids stay out of trouble.

It’s 7am and Isaac is at the computer. He’s usually asleep this early, but he’s taking advantage of the electricity. He’s been up all night adding new sound effects to Who Killed Captain Alex for the upcoming international release. He has many more explosions than he did 2 years ago, and cracks himself up when he adds a new neck snapping. His morning ginger tea sits beside him, untouched.I plop down on the couch beside him and plug in my laptop to charge, finally. Mama Racheal hands me my tea and I get to checking email. I jump out of my chair. Somehow I managed to get Isaac an expedited appointment at the US Embassy for his travel Visa. It’s for tomorrow morning. I grab my things.

“Do you hear the AK?”

I look at the Kung Fu scene he’s been editing. “No.”

Isaac laughs. “No. Outside. But of course you don’t. US is M-16. Here we are AK. You hear it now? POP POP POP POP. It sounds like popcorn.”


I hand Mama Racheal the empty mug. “Well, I need to go to Kampala to print out your confirmation. You need it for the interview.”

Isaac is focused on the computer screen. He does that. You can have an immersive, completely satisfying conversation with him and his attention will never slip from what he is doing. He’s not being rude. His mind can be in two places at once.

“Noooo, you cannot go. There are protests. Demonstrations. It can be very dangerous. Believe me. Believe a Ugandan when they tell you.”

I go anyway.

It wasn’t until late that evening, alone in my room at the Boom Motel, without lights, water, or the bother of mosquitoes, that I realized what I had done. There was machine gun fire and angry mobs in protest, and I drove thru on a motorcycle just to get a damn photocopy.

It’s amazing what we’re all going thru. I just pray he’ll be able to come to the US.