Award-winning Ugandan film ‘Freedom’ set for UK stage debut

POLLY KAMUKAMA

A veteran British producer credited for launching the careers of some of the country’s biggest 80s popstars has adapted the award-winning Ugandan film Freedom for stage.

George Hargreaves, a film distributor and evangelist who once produced and managed a host of pioneering Black British entertainers including Sinitta and Five Star, will premiere the stage version of the hit film in the UK later this August.

IMG_7888

Ray Shell (L) and George Hargreaves during the interview with this blog in Southampton, UK last week

Speaking to this blog in an exclusive interview recently, Hargreaves revealed that the play will debut at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in London between August 15-26th.

According to the tentative programme line-up of the 70th annual edition of the Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world, the hour-long play will be showcased at St John’s Church in the heart of Edinburgh city on August 15, 16, 22 and 26.

“The London show will take place on August 18 and 19, and will particularly aim to spotlight our lead actress Nisha Kalema,” Hargreaves said of the theatre production that will be helmed by acclaimed American-British actor and author Ray Shell.

1a

Director Richard Mulindwa, seen here receiving one of the film’s six accolades from Vice President Edward Ssekandi at UFF 2016.

“We will also screen three Ugandan films [The Tailor, Galz About Town and Jinxed] that cast Nisha in the lead role at the Bernie Grant centre. We want to introduce her to the western audiences as part of our plan to groom her into the international film star that she deserves to be,” noted the 60-year-old producer who also serves as Kalema’s manager.

Both Shell and Hargraves say the play is part of a rather ambitious campaign that will apparently culminate in a remake of the film with the hope of having it compete for the Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2019 with 23-year-old Kalema as its driving force.

According to Academy rules, for a film to qualify for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, it has got to be made in a predominantly non-English language by a local team of filmmakers, and first released in its home country. It should also be approved by a national Oscar committee, which is tasked with nominating a single film to represent the country every year.

vlcsnap-2016-07-29-14h33m17s013

Actress Nisha Kalema, seen here as Amelia, will reprise the award-winning role in the film’s stage version

As it stands now, the original Freedom, directed by Richard Mulindwa, does not fulfil any of the foreign language Oscar criteria. The feature film nonetheless captivated Ugandan audiences with its shocking violence and staller performances upon release last year.  So impressive was the English language picture that it took home a total of six accolades and Shs37m in cash rewards at the 2016 Uganda Film Festival (UFF) awards.

Set in the 80s political anarchy of Uganda, the low-budget film tells the harrowing story of an orphaned girl who suffers despicable abuse at the hands of her adoptive father.

Kalema, a single mother of one who has enjoyed meteoric success since bursting onto the local film scene three years ago, won the UFF Best Actress award for her heart-breaking performance as lead character Amelia.

20170620_134638_resized

The writer with producer George Hargreaves during the interview in Southampton, UK

The Galz About Town actress will reprise her role in Hargreaves’ stage adaptation, and so will veteran dramatist Raymond Rushabiro whose screen performance as Amelia’s villainous father was hailed as outstanding.

African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) 2017 nominee Samuel Kizito Saviour, Queen of Katwe actress Irene Nalubega and UK-based Ugandan actor Richard Kays are also part of the play’s small all-Ugandan cast.

But while Freedom the film details Amelia’s distressing journey from an adored child to a sex slave, the one-hour play can only allow for much detail. Shell, who says he will be working from a script penned by Kalema and not the actual film itself, admits it was a tough decision knocking off some of the parts that made Mulindwa’s directorial effort impressive.

“We will focus on Amelia’s adult life as a tortured woman and her subsequent quest for freedom,” 65-year-old Shell explained, expressing his hopes that the play’s themes of betrayal, violence and self-discovery strike a chord with British audiences in the wake of terror attacks and political uncertainty.

The African American writer will fly to Uganda with Hargreaves in the coming weeks to meet and rehearse with the cast ahead of the August showcase.

Meanwhile, Kalema has described her impending grand stage debut as a “lifetime opportunity and by far my most definitive moment” in her young career. She thanked Hargreaves, whom she now considers a mentor and a true friend despite having only first met him ten months ago, for giving her an opportunity to showcase her talent to the world.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

 

Advertisements
Standard

‘Queen of Katwe’ Ugandan premiere set for October 1

POLLY KAMUKAMA

Queen of Katwe, the upcoming Hollywood biographical film about Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, will hold its local premiere early next month.

The hotly-billed sports drama starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and Selma leading man David Oyelewo is set to screen at Century Cinemax in Kampala on October 1.

Queen-of-Katwe-1200

Oscar-winning Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o (R) seen here in one of the film’s scenes with newcomer Madina Nalwanga who plays the titular character 

“We are currently in the process of getting clearance from the Media Council of Uganda ahead of the film’s October 1 premiere,” Century Cinemax Manager Satish Guna told this blog in an exclusive interview today.

Guna added that the exclusive red carpet event, which also marks the Disney-produced picture’s African premiere, will be graced by the entire cast and crew and other big names from from the world of cinema.

The Mira Nair-directed biopic meanwhile is set to have its world premiere a few days from now at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Canada after which it will have a limited release across North America on September 23.

Its general worldwide theatrical release is slated for September 30 with the $15m (about Shs 50.7bn) budget feature expected to start showing in African cinemas on October 7.

Shot on location in Kampala early last year, Queen of Katwe chronicles the story of 20-year-old Mutesi from a homeless girl growing up in the rough city slum to a world chess champion.

The film is an adaptation of American journalist Tim Crothers’ best-selling book, The Queen of Katwe: A Story of Life, Chess, and One Extraordinary Girl’s Dream of Becoming a Grandmaster, which itself was first published as a magazine article in ESPN .

The two-hour film casts newcomer actress Madina Nalwanga as Mutesi while Nyong’o and Oyelewo play her mother Harriet and Coach Katende, respectively.

Hollywood-based Ugandan actor Ntare Mwine, singer Maurice Kirya and Ugandan actress Esther Tebandeke also feature in supporting roles.

Director Mira Nair first teased the film at the Amakula International Film Festival in Kampala this March when she showed a 20-minute clip from the movie to excited fans during her masterclass.

The film’s two-and-half minute official trailer would later go viral almost as soon as it was released in May this year. The rather emotional clip shows snippets of Mutesi’s struggle with poverty and rejection, her first contact with chess, as well as her first time on a plane.

With so much Oscar buzz already surrounding the film, Ugandans will be hoping that the biggest high-profile film out of the Pearl of Africa since The Last King of Scotland will indeed live up to its billing.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

‘Freedom’ sweeps the board at Uganda Film Festival Awards

POLLY KAMUKAMA

New Ugandan film Freedom got off to a dazzling start as it took home six awards and Shs 37m in cash rewards at last Friday’s Uganda Film Festival (UFF) Awards.

The Richard Mulindwa-directed picture won awards for Film of the Year, Best Feature Film and Best Cinematography which came with cash tokens of Shs 20m, Shs 5m and Shs 3m, respectively.

1a

Richard Mulindwa (2nd L) receiving his Film of the Year award from Vice President Edward Sekandi

The 80s-set feature film also scooped accolades for Best Costume, Best Editing and Best Actress (Nisha Kalema) which also came with bonuses of Shs 3m each.

It was Kalema’s second UFF Best Actress award in a row having shared it with arch rival Faridah Kutesa at last year’s edition of the annual awards.

1

Richard Mulindwa (L) with Freedom‘s principle cast (L-R) Bobby Tamale, Nisha Kalema, Yvonne Sue and Fiona Sebandeke during a photocall at the awards 

The 23-year-old starlet got emotional as she accepted the award for her heartbreaking performance as lead character Amelia, an orphaned girl that suffers despicable abuse at the hands of her adoptive father in the thrilling drama.

Thanking her rumoured screenwriter boyfriend Samuel Saviour for discovering her, the fast-rising actress told the audience how she’s yet to come to terms with her meteoric rise having burst onto the local film scene just last year.

Mulindwa on his part thanked God for the success of the film that’s set to officially premiere in Kampala next month.

Freedom indeed lived up to its billing having headed to the Serena Hotel event last Friday as a clear favourite with a whooping nine nods.

2

Actor Farooq Mutebi is joined on the red carpet by some of the guests at the awards

In the end, it only lost out on the Best Screenplay, Best Sound and Best Actor categories.

Hassan Mageye’s Invisible Cuffs, a chilling tale of a family man’s struggle with cannibalism, on the other hand only managed to win two of its eight nominations. It took awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actor (Mageye).

It was however a disappointing evening for New Intentions, the latest directorial effort from Kennedy Kihire, as it failed to make any good on its six nods.

The film’s greatest strength perhaps lies in its lead actor John Wayne Muganza whose momentous performance as a child molester was surprisingly overlooked by the five-man UFF 2016 jury.

3

Nisha Kalema (L) poses with her second UFF Best Actress award in a row  

Urban TV’s Coffee Shop also reigned supreme in the TV categories beating arch rival NTV’s Deception to the Best TV Drama, Best Actor in a TV Drama (Arnold Muhereza) and Best Actress in a TV Drama (Pamela Karyeko).

The jury, headed for the fourth consecutive time by Nigerian film expert Femi Odugbemi, noted that there was a significant improvement in the general quality of submissions this year.

They advised local filmmakers to avail their films for critical and scholarly review so as to get expert opinions that would help them improve their craft.

It was the first time in the awards’ four-year history that all winners got feted with cash rewards on top of the crested crane-shaped crests.

The red carpet event opened with a short documentary about the festival’s journey in which a couple of filmmakers were featured complaining about government’s failure to fully support the local sector.

In his speech as Guest of Honour, however, Vice President Edward Sekandi said government was committed to support the burgeoning industry, even hinting on the possibility of setting up a film fund in the next financial year.

Organised by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the national communications regulator, UFF seeks to provide a platform for the promotion and exhibition of Ugandan cinema.

This year’s festival was themed ‘Promoting Culture Through Film’ and featured a number of weeklong activities that culminated with the glamorous awards gala on Friday.

Full list of UFF 2016 Award winners

  • Best Student Film –The Touch
  • Best Short Film – Jinxed
  • Best Documentary – Heritage
  • Best Animation – The Runaway Rolex
  • Best TV Drama – Coffee Shop
  • Best Actor in a TV Drama – Anorld Muhereza (Coffee Shop)
  • Best Actress in a TV Drama – Pamela Karyeko (Coffee Shop)
  • Best Screenplay – Invisible Cuffs
  • Best Costume/Production Design – Freedom
  • Best Cinematography – Freedom
  • Best Sound – Wako
  • Best Editing/Post Production – Freedom
  • Best East African Film – Majembere (Burundi)
  • Best Actor – Hassan Mageye (Invisible Cuffs)
  • Best Actress – Nisha Kalema (Freedom)
  • Best Feature Film – Freedom
  • Film of the Year/Best Director – Freedom

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

Upcoming film ‘Freedom’ tops UFF 2016 nominations

POLLY KAMUKAMA

Ugandan director Richard Mulindwa’s upcoming film Freedom is off to a dazzling start after scooping a whooping nine nods at the forthcoming Uganda Film Festival (UFF) awards.

The film, set to officially premiere later this November, scoped nominations in every major competition category at this year’s UFF scheduled for next month.

vlcsnap-2016-07-29-14h33m17s013

Nisha Kalema’s heartbreaking performance in ‘Freedom’ could win her another  UFF Best Actress award

 

Based on a true story and set in the 80s, the English language picture details the despicable abuse suffered by one unlucky girl at the hands of her adoptive father.

The film has landed nominations for Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

It has also scored Best Actor and Best Actress slots in its lead cast of Raymond Rushabiro and Nisha Kalema, as well as nods in the costume, sound and editing categories.

 

vlcsnap-2016-07-29-14h41m14s228

Both Tania Kankindi and Hassan Mageye have been nominated for their performance in ‘Invisible Cuffs’

“I endured many challenges and made plenty of sacrifices to make this film. I’m thankful to God for rewarding me in this magnitude,” an emotional Mulindwa said in reaction to the nomination list released today.

The 29-year-old filmmaker is certainly the man to beat at this year’s UFF awards as his other new film The Only Son, which premiered in a glamorous red carpet event at Serena Hotel in Kampala just last week also raked in six nods including Best Director, Best Feature Film and Best Screenplay.

Hassan Mageye’s Invisible Cuffs, which charts the unnerving story of a man’s struggle with cannibalism, comes hot on the heels of Freedom with eight nods having only missed out on Best Cinematography among all the top categories.

 

1

Richard Mulindwa’s two films brag a combined total of 15 nominations in ten categories

Mageye, who also plays lead character Deo in the film, will be looking to take home the Best Actor gong with his biggest rivalry coming in the form of Rushabiro.

Mageye’s onscreen wife and the drama-thriller’s heroine Tania Kankindi will also go head-to-head with the high-flying Kalema for the Best Actress accolade.

Other top contenders at this year’s UFF awards include among others Kennedy Kihire’s New Intentions, Aaron Ziwa’s Wako and Dream America by Paresh Gondaliya with six, four and four nods each, respectively.

UFF-2016-Nominees-FOR-SOCIAL-MEDIA

UFF 2016 Full Nomination List

Bobby Tamale, producer and lead actor of The Only Son, landed two acting nods – one for the film, the other for the WBS TV series It Can’t Be for which he also doubles as producer.

Although largely praised as a fair lineup, this year’s UFF awards nominations haven’t fallen short of controversy.

Among the rather outstanding performances overlooked by the five-man UFF jury this year include that of John Wayne Muganza (New Intentions), Specioza Amito (A Girl from Lamwo) and Yvonne Sue (Freedom).

Imbabazi, Don’t Lick, Five Seconds, Chebet and Mr Ability are some of the other good films that didn’t make the cut.

The supporting categories were also unjustifiably scrapped off in favour of three new TV categories which pit Coffee Shop and Deception as the top contenders.

Organised by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), UFF seeks to promote the local film industry by providing a platform for filmmakers to showcase their works to the world.

The fourth edition of the annual cinema showcase takes place Aug 22-26, 2016, under the theme ‘Promoting Culture Through Film’ and will make use of all the major cinemas around Kampala.

The weeklong programme will feature a series of activities including film screenings, forums and workshops, and will culminate with a lavish awards gala were winners are feted with crests and laptops.

This year’s awards jury includes film experts Femi Femi Odugbemi (Nigeria), Cliff Okumu (Kenya), Leonce Ngabo (Burundi), Dominic Dipio (Uganda) and Joshua Ssali Sentongo (Uganda).

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

Standard

‘The Only Son’ raises Shs 20m for Tororo charity

POLLY KAMUKAMA

A Tororo-based charity that looks after 800 orphans and disabled children is set to receive a Shs 20m cash donation following the successful premiere of new Ugandan film The Only Son.

Producers of the film have confirmed that all proceeds from its glitzy debut held at Serena Hotel in Kampala last Friday will go to Adyac Foundation, a voluntary organisation with whom they have had an understanding for the last three years.

1

The film’s writer/director Richard Mulindwa addressing the audience at Serena

“We have been donating Shs 5m to them annually since 2013, but we hoped to up our grant to at least Shs10m through the premiere this year,” said Bobby Tamale, the film’s lead actor, producer and CEO of Tamz Production.

Tamale told this blog in an exclusive interview yesterday that his team has so far counted Shs 10m from ticket sales and are expecting at least another Shs 10m from audience pledges made during the premiere.

2

A cross section of the audience that turned up for the premiere

The 29-year-old businessman-turned-filmmaker got emotional on Friday as he thanked guests for turning up in big numbers to support a film that’s been touted as one of the best local productions this year.

There had been earlier fears the event would flop due to heavy pricing of tickets, limited publicity and the exclusivity of Serena.

4

The film’s producer and lead actor Bobby Tamale arrives with his date

But in a clear show of the increasing popularity of Ugandan cinema, hundreds of moviegoers packed the splendid Victoria Hall to catch the latest offering from the budding local industry.

By 5pm, swarms of stylishly-dressed guests had already started arriving at the venue where they were welcomed by a sprawling red carpet and media scrum.

3

Fashion was served in plenty at the event

The wide-ranging crowd comprised of some of Kampala’s glitterati including musicians, filmmakers, business moguls and fashionistas – all united by their impressive sense of style.

The absence of famous Ghanaian film star Majid Michel, who had initially been expected to headline the event, gave chance to the local film’s cast and crew to shine as they posed for pictures with fans on the red carpet.

8

The actor couple of Mathew and Eleanor Nabwiso was in attendence

Written and directed by Richard Mulindwa, The Only Son charts the story of Davis, an heir apparent and only child of a cancer-stricken millionaire (played by Michael Wawuyo Sr). The only thing Davis knows best is how to blow money, not how to make it.

His lavish lifestyle however takes a drastic turn as his father gets his entire fortune seized by Interpol following an apparent embezzlement scandal.

5

Polly Kamukama

Now penniless and lonely, Davis struggles to adapt to his new situation, a journey that beats him into a better man by teaching him priceless life virtues he hitherto never knew about.

The twist to the story is that the embezzlement case and assets seizure was all but a sham and desperate plan by Davis’ dying father to groom his son into a responsible heir.

Tamale, a relatively new actor with plenty to learn, appeared to be the audience’s favourite as he went through a range of emotions and experiences in his titular character.

7

The film’s cinematographer Rwamusigazi Kyakunzire brought two dates

Much of the critical acclaim however went to Nisha Kalema with the 23-year-old actress proving why she’s a force to reckon with in her endearing turnout as Diana, a kind-hearted waitress who nurses Davis’ wounds and heartache.

“She just changed the entire film’s trajectory for the better the first time she came on screen,” film critic Andrew Kaggwa noted of Kalema’s performance.

6

Actress Nisha Kalema was as outstanding in the film as on the red carpet

The 2015 UFF Best Actress award winner also rocked the red carpet with an androgynous look, complete with a white suit, bowtie and a half-shaven head.

Veteran stage actor Raymond Rushabiro also continued his impress screen run in the film since making the transition last year as so did Doreen Nabbanja.

The Only Son will next show at Club Ambiance in Masaka on August 3rd ahead of an extensive theatrical run in Kampala. The film is also participating at this year’s Uganda Film Festival (UFF) this August where it’s tipped for an awards haul.

Kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

 

 

Standard

Ghanaian actor Majid Michel to grace ‘The Only Son’ premiere today

POLLY KAMUKAMA 

Celebrated Ghanaian actor Majid Michel is among a slew of celebrity guests expected to grace the premiere of new Ugandan film The Only Son at Serena Hotel in Kampala later today.

Producers of the hotly-billed drama feature have told this blog that the multi-award winning actor will serve as guest of honour at the red-carpet fete slated for this evening.

Majid_Michael

Majid Michel

“He has been a close friend of mine for a while now, so I thought this premiere would give him an opportunity to meet his Ugandan fans. He’s a big name in African cinema, and we are honoured to have his presence,” said Richard Mulindwa, the film’s writer, director and co-producer.

But the 35-year-old hunky AMAA award-winning star didn’t essentially fly down here to attend the premiere. He is instead in town on a private invitation by Pastor Wilson Bugembe, close sources say.

IMG-20160722-WA0001

Ugandan actors John Segawa (L) and Andrew Benon Kibuuka (C) posing for pictures with the Ghanaian star ahead of today’s premiere 

Mulindwa and team will however most certainly be glad to bank on his celebrity status to draw huge attendances for the premiere.

Tipped to be one of the biggest Ugandan films this year, The Only Son tells the story of a lavish playboy who learns life’s lessons the hard way following his millionaire father’s apparent fall from grace.

The English language picture has so far been praised for its stellar cast led by Bobby Tamale as the endearing titular character, Davis – an heir apparent and only son of an embattled rich man.

Nisha Kalema, Raymond Rushabiro and Micheal Wawuyo Sr are among a string of other top Ugandan actors that make an impressive turnout in the film.

Tickets to today’s event are still selling at Serena Hotel, National Theatre and the city-based CKI Pharmacy at Shs 20,000 and Shs 50,000 for ordinary and VIP seats, respectively.

There are also two types of platinum tables at Shs 500,000 and Shs 1m for six and ten people each, respectively.

Gates open at 5pm with a red carpet entry and cocktail ahead of the actual screening.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

‘The Only Son’ to premiere at Serena this Friday

POLLY KAMUKAMA

The Only Son, one of the hotly-anticipated Ugandan films this year, is set for a red carpet premiere at the Serena Hotel in Kampala this Friday.

Written and directed by Richard Mulindwa, the drama film tells the story of a lavish playboy whose life is shattered after his father’s entire wealth gets seized in an apparent corruption scandal.

9V3A5059

Fast-rising actor Bobby Tamale (C) leads the film’s stellar cast including veterans Raymond Rushabiro (L) and Micheal Wawuyo Sr (R) seen here on the film’s set early this year

Fast-rising actor Bobby Tamale leads the film’s stellar cast in the titular role as Davis, the heir apparent and only child of a cancer-stricken millionaire who learns life’s lessons the hard way following his father’s big fall from grace.

Celebrated Ugandan actors Micheal Wawuyo Sr, Raymond Rushabiro and Nisha Kalema are a part of the film’s strong supporting cast.

Speaking to this blog in an exclusive interview today, Mulindwa said the film is a cautionary tale against poor parenting. He hoped people will turn out in big numbers to support the Friday event.

Raymond Rushabiro

Raymond Rushabiro is part of the supporting cast

“The choice of the premiere venue was very important to us because we are targeting a certain class of people to whom the story mostly appeals,” the 29-year-old filmmaker said, adding he’s expecting over 1000 guests.

Tamale, who also serves as the film’s executive producer, on the other hand revealed to us that proceeds from the premiere will go towards supporting Edyat Foundation, a Tororo-based charity that looks after orphans and disabled children.

Tickets to the event are now selling at Serena, National Theatre and CKI Pharmacy in Kampala at Shs 20,000 and Shs 50,000 for ordinary and VIP seats, respectively.

There are also two types of platinum tables at Shs 500,000 and Shs 1m for six and ten people each, respectively.

Gates open at 5pm with a red carpet entry and cocktail ahead of the actual screening.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

Standard