The Pearl of Africa is a story about Cleopatra Kambugu, a 28 year old Ugandan transgender girl. Biologically born male, but against all odds, transitioning into the woman she knows she was born to be. An intimate fight for love, in one of the most transphobic places in the world. Forced to leave her country and loving boyfriend behind. She sets out to fight for her right to love, and against all odds, to become the first accepted trans person in Uganda. Read More…

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Cleopatra Kambugu fled to Kenya after having been ”outed” as a homosexual on the front page of Red Paper, one of Uganda’s major tabloids. Forcing her to live behind closed gate for over a month and within a week, she lost her job and the relationship with several family members.

It was a week after the bill had passed that the 28-year-old student and activist Cleopatra Kambugu was ”outed” in one of Uganda’s biggest tabloids. On the front of the magazine you could see a picture of her with the title, “How we Became homosexuals.” An article stolen from The Advocate, an american publication that she had co-written the article for.

-I officially lost my job and several of my family members abandoned me fearing for their safety, said Cleo.

The people who had been ”outed” were attacked by mobs and illegally evicted. She was forced into hiding to avoid attacks and possible arrest.

– It was a tough time, my mom had to come up with food on the nights so we would have something to eat. People went hungry for days. Unless the attacks reached them, the lack of food and medicine did, she continues.

She saw no other option than to get out of Uganda, fortunately she was offered a job in Kenya at the time.

– I decided to move to Nairobi, Kenya. It gave me not only an income but also a sense of security, she said.

Today Cleo and her boyfriend lives in Nairobi, their move have given them the opportunity to live more freely. But she still have to be careful to avoid her surroundings noticing her gender identity. Now Cleo wants to share her story to the world in a documentary.

– I want to give the Ugandan people human picture of a transgender person, which i hope The Pearl Of Africa will help me to do, said Cleo.

Making your first feature documentary is hard, and it’s a process that you rarely get a close look at. Now The Pearl Of Africa’s director want to change this by documenting his own struggle as a filmmaker.

About three years ago I started working on my debut feature doc called The Pearl Of Africa. Making it has seemed to be impossible, which I why I decided to start vlogging about my struggle to make the film. In reality though, it’s a whole other documentary about making films.

In the first episode I explore the nature of creativity. What it means to be an independent filmmaker, and striving for something unique.

Jonny von Wallström is a award winning cinematographer turned self shooting director. His work has been featured in the world’s largest medias such as; CNN, Arte, The Huffington Post, MTV, TV6, ZTV, SVT, Al Jazeera and many more. In 2014 & 2015, he was awarded silver in the Cannes Lions and PPFT Maggie Award for media exellence in global Journalism. He’s also a frequent contributor at The Huffington Post.

  • “Cleo & Nelson’s relationship shows something rarely highlighted when talking about transgender people in Uganda”.

  • “Cleopatra’s story really highlights the human dignity it takes to take a stand on a controversal issue”.

    - BRIAN COLEMAN PhD – Rutgers University, U.S
  • “The Pearl Of Africa really help students understand the many social issues that need attention overseas”.


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