Art in the Service of Transformation. Transformation in the Service of Art.

by James Tayler

Earlier this year SDI co-produced a film about life in Uganda’s slums, called The Boda Boda thieves.

This was a first and highly experimental investigation of how to freely construct the everyday lives of slum dwellers and to find ways to contribute to the development of a new form of grassroots contestation – not through ideology or representation but through a social realist portrayal of life in poverty.

The Boda Boda Thieves is a modest call for a new form of art – something beyond the endless consumption of images for mindless entertainment that we are bombarded with today. At the same time it is a baby step towards a new developmental communication, one that is rooted in poor people telling their own stories of survival, struggle and triumph. 

If we focus on the everyday life of the poor and not on organisation or representation then the gap between art and transformation disappears. An authentic life, which is a life of struggle for change – especially if you have to deal with the daily indignity of being poor – makes art into transformation and transformation into art. In other words the real artistic endeavour is to eradicate poverty and alienation, and all art forms that we apply on our journey towards such a goal must have this in its sights. 

SDI’s media project is as much about transformation in the service of art as it is about art in the service of transformation. In fact, if we are only seeing our media as being in the service of our political agenda then both our art and our politics will continue to fail.









The Boda Boda Thieves has been shown at various film festivals and won more than a handful of awards since its release earlier this year.

Film Festivals

  • Africa in Motion – Scotland African Film Festival, Scotland
  • Africa International Film Festival, Nigeria
  • African Film Festival of Cordoba, Spain
  • Berlinale International Film Festival, Germany
  • Cinémas d’Afrique Festival, Switzerland
  • Durban International Film Festival, South Africa
  • Euro-African Kampala Film Festival’s, Uganda
  • Festival Cinema Africano di Verona, Italy
  • Montreal Black Film Festival, Canada
  • New Delhi Jagran Film Festival, India
  • Seattle International Film Festival, USA
  • Toronto Black Film Festival, Canada
  • Uganda Film Festival. Uganda
  • Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada
  • World Cinema Amsterdam, Netherlands


  • 2015 Africa Movie Academy Awards
    • ‘Boda Boda Thieves” star, Hassan “Spike” Isingoma, wins joint award for Most Promising Actor.
    • Rukundo Pross nominated for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award.
  • 2015 Uganda Film Festival 
    • Best Cinematography
    • Best Post Production
    • Best Supporting Actor to Michael Wawuyo for his portrayal of Goodman.
    • Special mention for the Best feature Film Award.

Learn more about The Boda Boda Thieves here.

In the next week, SDI will be showcasing movies and media coming out of slums across Africa and Asia. Stay tuned for more.