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How Ugandan Musician Bobi Wine Fights Tyranny With Love



Documentary “Bobi Wine: Ghetto President” centers on a man’s pursuit of freedom and justice for his country, but at the film’s heart is a love story. The film screens this week at Copenhagen’s CPH:DOX, where Wine is a guest. Variety speaks to the filmmakers.

The film, directed by Christopher Sharp and Moses Bwayo, and produced by Sharp and Oscar-winner John Battsek, follows the attempt by musician Bobi Wine to topple the repressive regime of Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni.

Sharp has a personal connection to Uganda: both his father and he were born there, and he spent a large part of his childhood in the country. He met Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, in 2017, just after the musician had become a Member of Parliament.

“I was just bowled over by him: his optimism, his determination, his bravery. And then, his amazing wife, Barbie… I just felt like I’d never met anyone like them before,” he says. “I spent time with him and Barbie, and said: ‘We’ve just got to make a film about you guys.’”

Sharp started the project with a British cameraman, Sam Benstead, who decided to quit after a short period of time, and Benstead was replaced by an Italian cameraman, Michele Sibiloni, who also stood down. Finally, Sharp was introduced to Bwayo, who stuck with the task to the end, at great personal cost to himself. Bwayo says of his predecessors: “Because of the regime and how far they go with the torture and intimidation, because of some of these issues, those guys couldn’t carry on with the project.”

“Bobi and Barbie just gave us complete access,” Sharp says. “There was literally nothing they didn’t let us film. We shot thousands of hours of footage, and then spent two years in the cutting room trying to work out what film we were going to make.”

The film follows Wine as he steps up his campaigning against Museveni, culminating in his bid for the presidency itself in the election held in January 2021. Along the way, he and his supporters in his National Unity Platform party, part of what Wine dubbed the “People Power” movement, were subjected to repeated detentions and assaults. A crackdown by the police and army on anti-government protests resulted in scores of deaths.

Central to the film’s story is Wine’s relationship with his wife Barbie, and their children. “We obviously wanted to give Barbie and the children as much space as possible. We didn’t want it just to be a sort of political drama about another despot. We wanted it to be much more personal,” Sharp says.

Bobi Wine escaping from police in Kampala, Uganda
Courtesy of Bobi Wine: Ghetto President

This decision meant that the documentary was less hard-hitting than it could have been.

“When Bobi saw the film, he said: ‘You made it not look that bad. There’s so little violence in it,’ ” Sharp says. “We filmed people who’d had their fingers chopped off, tongues chopped off, eyes gouged out, beaten. And in the end, we took a decision to really tell the story through Bobi and Barbie and those people around them. We thought that’d be more impactful, but it doesn’t do anything to show just how brutal [the regime is] and how so many bad things happen to a lot of people around [Bobi and Barbie].”

Sharp pays tribute to Bwayo, who he says was “incredible” and “put himself in a lot of danger.” But Bwayo prefers to express his gratitude for the opportunity to tell this story. “It’s been quite a journey, and I must say, it’s been a blessing being part of this because I believe Bobi Wine and the People Power movement came at a time where Uganda needed a voice like his,” he says. “Bobi Wine really appeals to the largest portion of our population, which is the youth.” More than 77% of the Ugandan population is under the age of 30.

He adds: “The population [overall] has been oppressed for a long time. They felt like they had no voice or place in politics; [the country is] economically divided, right now. They feel like, yes, he speaks for them, and stands up for them.”

Although Bwayo feels an affinity for Wine and his wife “I got to learn that, yes, this is actually a story worth telling, and fell in love with Bobi and Barbie, and their story,” he says – he’s kept a distance from the campaign itself, although that hasn’t saved him from paying a price for his association with them.

“From the start, of course, it was a very conscious decision not to become an activist myself, or become a story myself,” he says. “But that said, actually, the stuff has happened to me myself. I mean, I’m in Los Angeles right now. I can’t live in Uganda anymore because of this film. Not in a bad way. I appreciate the fact I am part of this film, and it’s a sacrifice, and a very conscious decision that I made. Because change doesn’t come easy. There have to be sacrifices and to be honest, if you want to be a vehicle [for change], if you want to be involved in change… of course, you cannot be reckless, but you have to put your life at stake or [put yourself] in these situations to effect change in places like Africa and Uganda.”

The explicit threats to Bwayo were “multiple,” he says, but he’s also been physically attacked and detained. He and his wife are in the process of applying for asylum in the U.S. “We couldn’t live in Uganda anymore. I’ve been shot in the face; I’ve been arrested; I’ve been locked up for a couple of days. I’ve been followed, intimidated.”

Bobi and Barbie in “Bobi Wine: Ghetto President”
Courtesy of Bobi Wine: Ghetto President

However, he considers himself lucky because no footage has been released, until now. “Luckily, when we were making this film, we hadn’t put out anything [online or on television]. So, this really kept me safe, because the regime didn’t see anything really out.”

However, “safe” in Uganda is a relative term. He adds: “Journalists, and anyone in Uganda who works to expose the regime, you’re a threat directly to the establishment.” As such, they are subject to intimidation and attacks. “I mean, I myself was shot in the face. If it wasn’t for the camera I was holding in front of me, I probably would have lost my eye. Just right here [he points to a scar]. My jaw would be shattered, or … I don’t know.” He was shot on Nov. 6, 2020, and was arrested around the end of February, beginning of March 2020, he adds. “Moses and Bobi and all those guys are just off the scale brave,” Sharp says.

Bwayo says he had the chance to quit the project but chose to continue. “More and more, I recognized that as a Ugandan I needed to say something, and I needed to be part of this time. Bobi represents a revolution, right?”

He refers to the “lawlessness of the state” and the willingness of the military to shoot people who dare to protest on the street, as they did when Wine was arrested on Nov. 18, 2019. “People lost their lives, [including] women, children, people who were not actually on the streets protesting. So, the repression really it’s at a point where you choose to either… it’s do or die, you know?”

Bwayo took great care to get the footage out of the country, sending a drive to Sharp every couple of weeks via friends. “I would have multiple [memory] cards while filming, and I’d keep them in places where they will not find them. And at the beginning I never kept the footage with me. I’d give it to other people, and people were travelling to get it to Chris. And the internet in Uganda is terrible, so it was very hard to send it through the internet. There was intimidation as well, so even people I knew were avoiding me, so there were very few people in my circles that you could trust.”

Sharp was traveling in and out of Uganda himself, and handled all the filming outside the country, including Wine’s trips to Paris, Berlin and New York.

As mentioned earlier, at the heart of the film is the love story between Wine and his wife, but that wasn’t the plan at the start of filming. “It came out of the cutting room to be honest. We really didn’t want to do just a political struggle: this kind of brave guy going up against the dictator,” Sharp says. “And when we started going through the rushes and organizing them, we realized the more interesting story was their love story, and seeing the pain through them, rather than showing people who’ve had their fingers cut off. And it just felt so much more poignant. The big aim for me and Moses is that we just want people to realize what really goes on.”

In January 2021, the Ugandan electoral officials declared Museveni as the winner of the presidential contest with 59% of the vote, and Wine with 35%, although Wine alleges widespread voting fraud took place.

Sharp also alleges that the election was fraudulent. “The Americans weren’t able to send monitors, nor were the European Union. All the journalists turned up. They said: ‘This is fraudulent. This guy’s been robbed, the people of Uganda have been robbed,’” he says.

The response from Western leaders to the repression has been muted, and the U.S. and the European Union continue to give millions of dollars to the Ugandan government in aid. Where that money ends up is a moot point. The fact that Museveni has sent thousands of troops to Somalia has positioned him as a potential ally for the West in the region, which may influence how seriously they challenge his brutal behavior at home.

The army is the key to Museveni’s grip on power, Bwayo says. “The military is like a tool for [Museveni] to protect himself against the people, and the longer he entrenches himself in power, the longer he will become a problem for the region, for the world itself,” he says.

“So I hope that people will see that this government is not one to be trusted. For a long time, he’s been saying things and promising things that do not happen. Uganda is not a democracy. It’s a fake democracy. They organize elections, not for elections to happen, but just to show the world that there is a democracy, but it’s nothing like that.”

“Bobi feels the West has let him down because he is for democracy, doing everything straight,” Sharp says. “And he really thought that the West would get behind him. And they didn’t. He’s an optimistic guy, so he picks himself up. But it was a massive disappointment for [Bobi and Barbie], because he thought that people actually would be pleased to have a democratic process, and he thought it would matter. And it didn’t, and it was hard for him.”

He adds: “When Bobi saw the film, he said: ‘You’ve made it so sad.’ [I replied:] ‘Bobi, it is sad. You won the election, and you were robbed. All of your friends were locked up in military detention for six months. Loads of your friends died, suffered, and it is sad. We can’t spin it any other way. We’ve just got to tell it as it is. You’re left standing and you carry on, but we can’t make it a happy ending, because it’s not a happy ending.”

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Lindsay Lohan, Lil Yachty, Jake Paul Among Celebrities Hit With SEC Charges for Touting Crypto



Lindsay Lohan, Jake Paul, Ne-Yo and rapper Lil Yachty are among the eight notable names who have been hit with Securities and Exchange Commission charges for violating securities laws in touting crypto currencies.

The SEC on Wednesday disclosed that charges were filed against eight celebrities in connection with the broader investigation of crypto entrepreneur Justin Sun and three of his companies: Tron Foundation Limited, BitTorrent Foundation Ltd., and Rainberry Inc., which marketed crypto asset securities under the brand names Tronix (TRX) and BitTorrent (BTT).

The eight boldface names were charged with “illegally touting TRX and/or BTT without disclosing that they were compensated for doing so and the amount of their compensation,” according to the SEC.

The list also includes rapper Soulja Boy, singers Austin Mahone and Akon and adult film star Kendra Lust. All but Mahone and Soulja Boy (aka DeAndre Cortez Way) have reached settlements with the SEC that involve “more than $400,000 in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to settle the charges, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings,” per the SEC.

“This case demonstrates again the high risk investors face when crypto asset securities are offered and sold without proper disclosure,” said SEC chair Gary Gensler. “As alleged, Sun and his companies not only targeted U.S. investors in their unregistered offers and sales, generating millions in illegal proceeds at the expense of investors, but they also coordinated wash trading on an unregistered trading platform to create the misleading appearance of active trading in TRX. Sun further induced investors to purchase TRX and BTT by orchestrating a promotional campaign in which he and his celebrity promoters hid the fact that the celebrities were paid for their tweets.”

The SEC complaint, filed in New York’s Southern District federal court, accuses Sun of instructing the eight celebrities to not disclose that they were being paid to tout TRX and BTT assets on social media platforms.

A representative for Lohan said the actor was unaware of any disclosure obligations.

“Lindsay was contacted in March 2022 and was unaware of the disclosure requirement. She agreed to pay a fine to resolve the matter,” said spokeswoman Leslie Sloane.

Sun is accused of taking numerous steps to manipulate the market for those currencies through “wash trading,” which is explained by the SEC as a process that “involves the simultaneous or near-simultaneous purchase and sale of a security to make it appear actively traded without an actual change in beneficial ownership.” From April 2018 to February 2019, Sun engaged “allegedly directed his employees to engage in more than 600,000 wash trades of TRX between two crypto asset trading platform accounts he controlled,” according to the SEC. Sun also generated $31 million in proceeds through secondary market sales of illegal and unregistered sales of the token, per the SEC.

“While we’re neutral about the technologies at issue, we’re anything but neutral when it comes to investor protection,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “As alleged in the complaint, Sun and others used an age-old playbook to mislead and harm investors by first offering securities without complying with registration and disclosure requirements and then manipulating the market for those very securities. At the same time, Sun paid celebrities with millions of social media followers to tout the unregistered offerings, while specifically directing that they not disclose their compensation. This is the very conduct that the federal securities laws were designed to protect against regardless of the labels Sun and others used.”

(Pictured: Lindsay Lohan, Jake Paul and Lil Yachty)

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Offset Previews New Song With Posthumous Takeoff Verse



Migos fans should be pleased to know that Offset has a new record with Icewear Vezzo and his late bandmate/cousin Takeoff potentially on the way.

Earlier this week, Set teased the trunk-rattling track on his Instagram Stories, which drew elation from fans on social media. The 56-second snippet finds Vezzo and Takeoff exchanging bars before Offset bursts through the song with fiery lines of his own.

The path to Set’s sophomore album has been arduous. Last August, he sued his former label Quality Control to reclaim ownership of his solo material. Then, in November, he lost his cousin Takeoff, who was shot and killed in Houston, further delaying the album. He was also involved in a fistful of skirmishes, including a verbal spat online with J. Prince and allegedly feuding with his Migos bandmate Quavo at this year’s Grammy Awards. 

Musically, Offset has released several one-off singles to keep fans intrigued. Last August, he released “5 4 3 2 1” before following up with “CODE” featuring MoneyBagg Yo. Offset’s 2019 debut album Father of 4 netted a top-five entry on the Billboard 200 with 89,000 album-equivalent units. The offering also spawned his triple-platinum single “Clout” featuring his wife, Cardi B.

On the posthumous side, this is the latest offering from Takeoff after fans first heard The Last Rocket MC on Metro Boomin’s Heroes and Villians standout “Feel the Fiyaaaah” featuring him and A$AP Rocky.

Listen to the snippet featuring Offset, Takeoff and Vezzo below. 

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Tekashi 6ix9ine Hospitalized After Attack at Florida Gym



Tekashi 6ix9ine was hospitalized after being ambushed by a group of attackers in the bathroom of a gym in South Florida on Tuesday, Variety has confirmed.

The 26-year-old rapper, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, sustained injuries to his face and bruises, according to his attorney, Lance Lazzaro.

Lazzaro said the rapper was attacked in and outside the LA Fitness gym sauna by three or four men who beat him up, though he tried fighting back. “He had cuts to his face and bruises,” Lazzaro said. The attorney said that the perpetrators fled after employees heard the disturbance.

Police in South Florida were called, and Hernandez was transported via ambulance to a local hospital, according to Lazzaro. As of now, it is unclear if the rapper remains hospitalized.

Lazzaro told TMZ he plans to ensure Hernandez gets some protection, since he was released from federal prison in April 2020. Hernandez was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison in 2019 on nine charges, including racketeering, drug trafficking and firearm offenses in relation to his involvement with the Nine Trey Bloods gang. Hernandez received a shortened prison sentence after he cooperated with federal officials to imprison his associates. He was released early due to COVID-19 concerns, after a judge called the rapper a “model prisoner.”

In a video leaked on Twitter, one of Hernandez’s assailants is heard saying, “Take a picture. I’m gonna be famous now.” Another video captured a bloodied Hernandez walking out of the gym.

According to several media reports, Hernandez was ejected from a Miami baseball stadium Friday for being intoxicated and disturbing fans.

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