How has the United African Alliance Community Center changed since the filming of A Panther in Africa?"
Pete O'Neal: Our programs were growing and strengthening since their inception. Since the filming of "A Panther in Africa," and since its screenings in several festivals around America and in Zanzibar, we have received such a positive response, that it has inspired us to redouble our efforts. That redoubling has resulted in our student numbers increasing from perhaps 100 or 150 at the time the filming started, to well over 400 students. I don't mean that we have 400 students gathered here at one time, but during the course of the week we have a total of 400 or more students who are taking advantage of our programs.
Our programs have also increased severalfold. We now have an electronics teaching program. We have an architecture and construction program. We have French classes.
The thing that we are so very proud of is our new community free transport service. We have a vehicle that's capable of carrying thirty passengers. We bought, renovated, and converted [a bus] into a passenger vehicle that takes people from the village. Walking the four miles with baggage from our center to the main road, as our village members normally do, takes an hour. Coming back takes an hour. Our bus makes four trips a day. It takes people down, saving them an hour, and brings them back and saves them another hour. It also operates as an emergency ambulance service, so we are very, very proud. And while we can't credit this entirely to the film, it certainly has been a catalyst, and it has served us well.
Charlotte O'Neal: That's right. I think because of the film, we've had more people wanting to come and volunteer. I think that's wonderful. We also have students and teachers now who are interested in filmmaking. So, "A Panther in Africa" is definitely a good thing for UAACC.
How do you feel the film has affected you on a personal level?
Charlotte: So many people now want to know what the UAACC is all about. It really keeps us on our toes. We were on our toes anyway, but this doubles our efforts to really make sure that we are setting as good an example as possible. So, if anything, it has made us busier.
Pete, have you had more visits from relatives? And if you have, what has that been like?
Pete: My goodness, have I. You will recall that in the film, I spoke about the possibility of that visit from my mother as being the last one. I thought, "Well, I won't have an opportunity to be with the woman who gave birth to me again." I am so pleased to report that she is in fine health and vigor. She returned here last December with my sister that I had not seen in 34 years. We had a wonderful time. My mother, surprisingly, was in such high spirits. Perhaps "A Panther in Africa" invigorated her. My sister and her family, and another sister that I haven't seen in 34 years, came back two months ago and accompanied us to Zanzibar to watch the viewing of the film there. Relatives are coming in bunches now, and they're planning to come again. I've got a son, and he and his girlfriend are coming out in December. I think the film has been an inspiration for family members to come out and visit.
Interview with Pete and Charlotte produced, directed, shot and edited by Msechu Anwary and Samuel Obae. Msechu and Sam are volunteers at the UAACC and are currently working on a film that looks at the lives of Tanzanian street children.