This coming Freethinkers’ Night is going to be yet another movie night! Every now and then we’ll be holding a FREE screening of an interesting, thought provoking movie pertaining to freethought, and thereafter have a discussion about the issues covered in the film.

The movie we will be screening on Thursday is a documentary called KURU: The Science and the Sorcery.

kuruBuy the documentary here.

According to one online review of this documentary:

This fascinating film is a medical detective story, which looks at the story of Kuru (also known as ‘laughing sickness’) a degenerative neurological disorder found predominately in Papua New Guinea’s Fore people. Kuru: The Science and the Sorcery follows Australian scientist and the world’s leading authority on the disease, Michael Alpers as he retraces his groundbreaking 1962 pioneering research trip deep into the jungles of PNG. The documentary takes its audience into a mysterious world of sorcery, cannibalism and tribal conflict.  Stranger than fiction, research into Kuru revealed a chain of discoveries, which turned scientific understandings upside down and resulted in two Nobel prizes. This film is an anthropological study not to be overlooked.

The reason we chose to screen this movie at the next Freethinkers’ Night is because it its relevance to the state of affairs with regards to the public understanding of neurological disorders. This state of affairs leads many Ugandans to conclude that someone is “possessed by evil spirits” whenever they encounter a person acting in ways that cannot be properly understood. Many alleged claims of bewitching feature stories about people “running mad”.

In this movie, and as depicted in this trailer below, the local communities claimed to be certain that the condition they called Kuru was the result of sorcery/witchcraft. A familiar pattern can be seen here… where a community can think of no explanation for something they encounter, they almost immediately relegate it to the realm of the supernatural. This documentary does a great job of showing how, in the end – even in the midst of all these widely held cultural beliefs in sorcery – long, painstaking scientific research prevailed, and provided the answers.

See: Kuru (disease) in Wikipedia.


This documentary will hopefully get more people thinking critically whenever they hear stories about people who have allegedly been bewitched. While the people they hear about will most probably not be suffering specifically from Kuru, watching this documentary will make people realise the effects neurological disorders can have on people. They might thus become less inclined to jump to the conclusion that someone was bewitched, and be more open to medical reasons for why certain people may be acting as if ‘possessed’.

The February Freethinkers’ Night is going to take place on Thursday, 24th February 2011 at 4 Points Bar & Restaurant, Centenary Park, Kampala, starting 6PM. We will start showing the documentary at exactly 6.30pm, so please keep time! There is NO entrance fee – it is FREE.

After the screening of the film, we’ll have a discussion on neurological disorders in general, and how they manifest in people as seemingly strange behaviour that tends to get attributed erroneously to witchcraft. 

If you are an open minded person whose opinions are formed not by religious or cultural dogma but on the basis of science, logic, and reason and are interested in meeting like-minded individuals – you are welcome to join us at the meeting.

If you happen to be religious, you too are welcome to interact with those of us who are not, and engage in debate about these contentious issues.

See you there!

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