The Ugandan film industry has been striving for years to stay afloat, though most of the companies opted for television shows at the start since they were easy to make. Over a span of years, several production houses have sprung up, technology has improved and art schools have come up yet the industry still struggles with very few being able to create a well edited film that viewers away from Uganda can enjoy too.
Yet, they still strive and keep rising by year like a Phoenix from the ashes with more interesting projects being made for the people to enjoy.
With technological growth came the availability of free access to the rest of the world, making it easy for the production houses to showcase their films online through channels such as Youtube to the rest of the world.
The industry has churned out movies, TV shows and documentaries ranging from short movies and series and that have had a cult following for some years.
One of those series would be Kigenya Agenya, a show that ruled a higher number of DVD sales as much as being watched on a popular television station.
Phillip Luswata, one of the most celebrated actors in Uganda and one of the team on Kigenya Agenya says; “We have remarkably grown as an industry from exclusively ‘development’ driven films funded by NGOs, to the realization that we can now make exclusively commercial films for sale on DVD. Though we are not yet profitable in terms of quality and content to achieve acceptable commercial dividends, we are nonetheless crawling in the right direction.”
The Ugandan film industry has created a space for some of the best actors in the country, some of them have made it to Hollywood blockbusters; actors such Cleo Kyoheirwe, Abby Mukiibi and Ntare Guma among others. These actors create a buzz about their country when they are interviewed by foreign media and which in this case show the world that Uganda is more than Idi Amin and Kony.
Uganda has an array of talented producers such as Mira Nair whose new film “Queen of Katwe” starring Oscar award winning actress Lupita, will premiere on the 30th of September to audiences all over the world. Wakaliwood famed Isaac Nabwana who’s “Who Killed Captain Alex” has had over 600, 000 views on youtube and a cult following of fans from all over the world.
Isaac explains that: “First of all, since Uganda has been known for violence over the world, the movies we have been making are helping people see beyond what was in the media before. When they visit our country just because of their interest in our films, they get to see that Uganda is full of very warm and welcoming people. An example would be when some of our foreign fans are looking for directions to our base, of course they will need to ask someone in the area about how to reach there and Ugandans being as welcoming as we are, they will be brought to Wakaliwood.”
He goes on to explain that “what we have done as a team, is using passion past the search for money and when you add creativity in that, everything else falls into place…”
With all the passion, what is holding back our film industry from growing and amassing worldwide viewership?
“Our set back, as I have always pointed out, lies in our over concentration on the means of production and less on exhibition and distribution. Few of us are investing in these two latter areas yet this is where our market lies. Once we understand how to respond to these two areas, I believe we will better appreciate demanded quality, content and marketing. Now we are effectively making stories that appeal to us as film producers but may not necessarily respond to the aspirations of our target.”
Further describing Uganda as a country in self betrayal, Phillip Luswata who is working on a new TV show called “The Campus” is concerned that
“we sit back and watch as an industry we should be harnessing goes under. Cinema houses have continued to close. Bibanda which used to be really popular and would have been exploited to grow local film making also continue to reduce. Even the cultural centre that would have allowed for the development of new talent is non effective.”
According to Patrick, if government can’t come up to protect this huge potential to cause employment, economic and cultural growth, Uganda’s film industry will remain troubled. He believes that while setting the house right, there is need to continue growing marketable talent, taking advantage of the increase in broadcast potential that came with digital migration Yet the industry stakeholders strive on with hopes of showcasing how much talent Uganda has. So many TV shows with scripts and actors have been airing on popular television stations in the country with some getting majorly good reviews due to paytv services such as Multichoice’s DSTV that is used in several countries in Africa. These services incorporate channels that show local content as well as that from other countries on the continent which Nigeria is still leading.
The biggest market for the film industry are Ugandans themselves since most of the films appeal to them are lately becoming aware of what the industry has to offer and offering effort where possible. With the growth of social media, sharing clips and titles of what they have been watching makes it easy for the rest of the world to know what is in the industry.