Why the Ugandan film industry has failed to take off0 comments

By admin
Posted on 31 Dec 2012 at 9:52pm

1Blessed with exquisite natural scenery and a rich history and cultures, Ugandahas one of the most promising movie industries. In fact, in the recent past, the country has been targeted by foreign filmmakers- giving birth to such global blockbuster films as Mississippi Masala, The Last King of Scotland and White Light (Wit Licht). However, our local industry still remains in obscurity. POLLY KAMUKAMA analyses the top 20 reasons for this unfortunate fate.

20. Lack of training institutions

In Uganda, the number of higher learning institutions which offer courses in film production is countable. Save for Kampala University which has a reserved department for Film and TV, plus a few other mediocre institutions around Kampala, there is no any other place where aspiring filmmakers can get hands-on knowledge; not even at the prestigious Makerere University.

19. Government negligence

It is a shame that whereas our neighbors like Kenya and Rwanda set aside funds for the development of the performing arts sector, Uganda has no such reservations. Pleas from the Uganda Movie Federation , a body that unites all stakeholders in the local film industry, to secure funding from the government to help young up-coming filmmakers has consistently hit a dead end.

18.  Poor marketing and distribution

The Uganda film industry only boosts of a few distribution companies- Jamo Productions, Twinex and HK plus a few others. It is also important to note that all these distributors are based in Kampala hence leaving other parts of the country with no track of the local industry. To make matters worse, these distributors are infamous for over-charging movie-makers something that forces many to market their films themselves.

17. Vibrant music industry

The music industry in Uganda has been a double-edged sword to the local movies. Firstly, there has been a copy-cat effect from the western world where top musicians, in a bid to stamp their dominance have infiltrated the film industry. The likes of Juliana Kanyomozi, Bobi Wine, Buchaman, Miriam Ndagire and HB Toxic have all experimented in the movies but left little to be desired. Secondly, as much as the two industries are naturally expected to complement each other, with Uganda, the music industry has outgrown the movies hence suffocating them; people are so used to music as the primary source of entertainment and therefore do not give a damn about kina-u.

16. Poverty

This is self-explanatory. Both the filmmakers and the audiences in Uganda are too poor to sustain the otherwise heavily-costing industry. It is common to come across a movie set that is running under a production budget of less than Shs1 million! Such a laughable budget cannot put even the basic of movies on the market. The cost of DVDs, TV and players is also expensive for ordinary Ugandan audiences.

15. Hollywood

Hollywood movies have been a disaster to the local film industry. For starters, because of the advanced marketing and distribution policies in western worlds, their movies end up swarming our local market. Imperialism has also traced its way into the movies; it is so sad that major cinemas like Cineplex and Wonder World, which the industry looks up to for promotion, are the ones which perpetrate western films. Furthermore, even our local filmmakers are so taken up by Hollywood that they try to craft their art along that standard forgetting that there are lots of technical shortcomings that cannot enable our productions to be that good. For that reason, Ugandans have come to believe that western films are better than local ones and it will take some time to change that.

14. ‘Ki-Nigeria’

LikeHollywood, ‘Ki-Nigeria’ too has drastically stunted our movies. An entire book could easily be written about how substandard most Nigerian films are but surprisingly, they are still cherished here. Local TVs are partly to blame for popularizing ‘Ki-Nigeria’ at the expense of our productions. To make matters worse, most of our local filmmakers have resorted to duplicating the fake plots (mostly featuring witchcraft and African ethnicity) hence making the movies monotonous.

13.  Blind illusion

Most of our filmmakers are misled by the lavish lifestyles that their Hollywood (or even Nollywood) counterparts live. People are easily fooled by the blind illusion of film money and the fame that comes along with it that they rush to shoot raw ideas just so they can catch up with the fame. Whereas it may be true that film indeed brings in lots of money, we need to put some considerations first: There are lots of technical shortcomings within the Ugandan industry. Therefore, filmmakers need to be told to take it slow or else we will continue to see rushed half-baked productions that won’t make it anywhere beyond the premiere venue.

12. Telenovelas

First it was witchcraft, and then came love stories and more love stories. Out of the 15 nominated films for the May 2011 Pearl Film Festival, 13 were love stories and this is largely attributed to the influx of Hispanic soaps (telenovelas) on the local market. Shunned in Hollywood and other modern film industries for their weak recurrent themes and predictability, Latin filmmakers have resorted to shipping their dumps into Africa and this has greatly cost our local industry. Local TVs like Bukedde, NTV and NBS plus pay-per-views such as the STV franchise have made it worse by dedicating their prime time to airing these soaps instead of local productions.

11. Comedy

Whereas Comedy is one of the highly respected and paid film genres in developed film industries, it has been grossly abused in Uganda, further tainting the industry. A predominant part of the local plots is comedy and the manner in which it is executed is disgracing. Productions such as Kanyankole, Akandolindoli, School times and many others leave little to be desired about Ugandan films; they feature lazy jokes that kill the market.

10. Low investment

Once, a movie-maker friend of mine intimated to me how a big telecommunications company bluntly told him that they would rather give away money to charity than sponsor his film shoot. Such ancient-thinking and show of ignorance about the relevance of film by potential sponsors is quite absurd. Most of our local filmmakers cannot afford to fund a production budget independently and therefore look to government and other agencies. However, only a few filmmakers have managed to convince corporate companies for sponsorship something that explains why most scripts don’t live to see a since a camera.

9. Illiteracy

There is no single component of the day-to-day life that is not affected by low-education levels. Ugandans’ challenge still remains in the ability to understand, let alone find relevance in films. Whereas film has been identified as the most powerful tool of communication, majority of the Ugandans cannot comprehend beyond the moving pictures across the screen. Most movie-goers only attend for entertainment purposes and forget to relate to the movies. This explains why most filmmakers have resorted to developing light meaningless plots, something that otherwise cannot earn the local industry respect.

8. Absence of structures

There is no definite order in Uganda’s film industry; any one can make any movie at anytime and market it. The Uganda Film Network (UFN) which would otherwise be the umbrella body for all local filmmakers is clearly ran and serves the interests of its founders- Mariam Ndagire, Abbey Mukiibi and Michael Wawuyo. Weak copy-right laws also scare away potential filmmakers; there is no protection of ideas at all!

7. Stone-age technology

The main reason why there is no local action or 3-D films is because we lack the technology to shoot them. Many local filmmakers have no idea about suspension wires, red cameras, facilitation labs and automated dollies. As a matter of fact; camcorders, torch light, analogue mics and VHSs are still a common feature on many local sets. Carol Kamya’s 2010 hit Imani is the only East African film to be shot with an HD-Red Camera. Without modern technology, it is simply impossible to produce movies for global audiences.

6. Mediocre filmmakers

Uganda’s film industry is run by illiterate businessmen, enthusiasts and musicians. None of these people really possesses spot-on knowledge about movie production. This is perhaps because there are no film institutions to train the stakeholders. Otherwise, Amakula Film Festival and Maisha Film Labs deserve credit for playing an important role of organizing seminars and training workshops for the stakeholders.

5. Untouchables

The local film industry, like its music counterpart is run by a status quo. There is a belief among Uganda audiences that if a movie is not made by Mariam Ndagire, Patriko Mujuka, Abbey Mukiibi or Michael Wawuyo, then it is not good enough and that is a very dangerous misconception. As a matter of fact some of these filmmakers’ latest films have received a lot of negative review (as was the case with Wawuyo’s Stone Cold). This has kept many promising young talents (like David Maloba, Godfrey Musinguzi and Osama Mukwaya) in the shadows.

4. Peanuts

In this modern world, no one wishes to work for peanuts but the reverse is true in the Ugandan film industry. Being that the industry is just developing, many directors offer as little as Shs 100,000 for a lead role and between Shs50,000-25,000 for supporting roles. There was a scandal last year when one Judith Adong came forward to claim that acclaimed filmmaker Carol Kamya had paid her a paltry of USD 250 (about Shs600,000) for one of the three storylines in the latter’s blockbuster- Imani. The film went on to win several international awards and lots of money for Kamya. Similarly, several of Matt Bish’s cast on this year’s hit SRB complained of little pay. This discourages young talents from joining the industry.

3. Poor script culture

It is sad to learn that most of Uganda’s productions do not actually have standard scripts. It is said of how Dan Kigundu, the proprietor of Maryland Productions and one of the most respected directors in this country does not use scripts. When most directors think of an idea, they roughly outline it and call the cast to the shoot, improvising most of the scenes and dialogue. This is artistically criminal because it leads to production of lazy films.

2. Vague recurrent plots

This is no doubt one of the greatest hindrances of our local film industry. Because writers and directors look up to Ki-Nigerias and soaps, they end up developing similar borrowed plots. For example, most local love stories feature betrayal, tragedy and often AIDS and subsequent death. Similarly, comedies usually feature an impaired character and quarrelsome woman. There is a need for Ugandan filmmakers to be original.

1. Stage acting

The local film industry’s main challenge has persistently lain in failure to distinguish stage acting from screen acting. Whereas stage is a little less demanding and requires humor and impersonations, screen acting is all about reality; actors are required to live their characters. Even when the two have been known to have drastic effects on each other, Ugandans continue to marry them- the reason for the substandard films. The recent decline in theatre entries has forced many dramatists to drag their amateur stage skills to screen. The likes of Abbey Mukiibi, Mariam Ndagire, Kato Lubwama, Jennifer Kabanda, Hajji Ashraf Ssemwogerere to mention but a few are stage actors who have ventured into film as well but most of their works are nothing to be proud of.

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