Uganda Film Festival: A festival is no one night stand

00:07 by Kaggwa Andrew

The third edition of the UCC sponsored Uganda Film Festival wrapped on Friday at Serena Hotel. As you could imagine, there was merry making as a section of film makers came together to reminisce about the year it has been and also ponder about the future.
This year, unlike the past events, the gig was one of the low key ones – the festival was coming for the third time but it felt like a debut, more Ugandans had no idea of what was happening or even a fact that local films exist but above all, more film makers were rather disgruntled than supporting the event.
For instance, many feel like the festival has failed to create the desired awareness for itself and the industry at large, making matters worse, local films are still finding it hard to make it to different cinema screens across the country.
In fact, one film maker had even intimated that it’s because of their loss of belief in the festival that the film entries have drastically fallen; - the first festival had a record of 189 films, last year only 179 films were submitted while this year, there were 132 entries.
However, an official from UCC noted that the drop is related to other factors rather than loss of trust, for instance, he says that for the first edition in 2013, the festival accepted entries from as far as 2005 thus the big number of films.
In 2014, he says they invited foreign film makers to submit and thus the domination of the winners’ list by Tanzania’s Zamora. This time round, they only invited Ugandan films made between June2014 and June 2015, thus the decline of 47 films.
Some film makers though rubbish this as a mere theory, they reason that even last year, there were less than ten foreign films submitted altogether.
But besides the bickering, this UFF edition had started with a cocktail at Serena Hotel, much as it was a great gesture on the part of the organizers, it was highly criticized by the public especially by a fact that they would chose to start a film festival with a Sheebah/Pallaso climax rather than a film screening or again ending by recognizing exhibitors rather than create a way forward.
The films did screen though; Magic Cinema was hosting corporate screenings every day at 7pm and director Joseph K Ssebagala’s Call 112 and House Arrest, Hassan Mageye’s The Tailor and Donald Mugisha’s Boda Boda Theives among others were screened. Other screenings were at Acacia Mall’s Century Cinema, Cineplex, and Cinemax in Makerere.
But a film festival is not a one night stand, it’s a journey and it must involve all the little players that help the industry grow – I think all interested Ugandans know where to get services of a drone camera owner, Wakaliwood’s beaten camera stands or a Zuku TV decorder.
When such service providers are programmed for a festival, they must come to present opportunities, for instance, the Zuku TV tent was supposed to have a representative that would help film makers with information regarding Zuku TV’s content acquisition policy, not some bimbos yapping about the number of channels on the pay TV platform – it is a film festival not a trade fair!
The award night, we had eleven feature film categories; Best Feature Film, Film of the Year, Best Sound, Best Post production,  Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography and Best Costume. These were strategically filled by eleven films; Boda Boda Theives, House Arrest, Call 112, Akatiro, The Tailor, Situka, Galz About Town, The Curse 1870, Hanged for love, Evil Mother and My Rising Sun.
Now judging by the complexity of making a feature film, especially in a country or economy like Uganda where the Script, Editing, Story conceptualization and Directing are done by the same person, you need to be super human to emerge victor in all these areas  by yourself, and if you have another film to shoot with partly the same cast who too have other projects to work on, it is super impossible.
But that aside, it’s ridiculous for UCC to tell us that from the 132 entries this year, they found eleven films that succeeded at everything. These films had the best scripts, the same had the best screenplay, and the same films had the best sound, they were so perfect that their casts were the best in both lead and supporting roles!
But they were not about to stop, we had incidents where, Ronnie Lugumba was nominated for Best Actor for his Hanged for love role and Deyby Wadsen was nominated for Best Actress in the same film, just like Hassan Mageye and Kalema Nisha in The Tailor – True there are rare cases when directors front two main characters but this mostly happens in ‘Buddy Movies’ – the type where the two lead characters complement each other, they live together, win and in some cases die together – these are films like Rush Hour, where we had Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, these characters almost share the same amount of screen time and usually together, can we say the same about the two actors in Hanged for love?
We understand they had a team of five judges that came up with the nominees and eventually the winners, but isn’t this number too small for 132 entries, some of which would drag to the bone, can we even be sure they watched all these films?
Considering the fact that only two of these judges were Ugandans, can we be sure they understood the narrative?
Generally, if UCC is going to organize a festival, they should work with people that understand what a film festival and a closing award show is like, there’s more to the day than fancy foods and long legged ushers – a festival is a journey that starts the moment an idea is conceptualized and each edition starts the day the other ends.
It’s not about glossy banners and calling upon sponsors but an activity where the industry sells itself to the people, for instance, the day there was a masterclass on funding, the idea thing wasn’t to bring a creative to tell you how to get loans, UCC had to get their sponsors to tell film makers want they would need from you if they are to release the money taps your way.
Uganda Film Festival  or UFF is a brilliant idea, but if they continue running this great idea like a school canteen, time will come when even the past winners don’t want to be associated with it – considering the fact that it even adds no props at the national level, at the moment!


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