Serena Hotel Kampala will on Monday play host to the opening ceremony of the inaugural Uganda Film Festival (UFF).
Organized by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the national media regulatory organ, UFF was launched this May with a mandate to showcase and promote Ugandan films.
Since then, a modest buildup campaign to drum up hype for the prototype festival – including film submissions, regional tours and consultative meetings –has been ongoing, culminating into Monday’s opening night.
“It is strictly by invite and we are expecting at least 300 guests including filmmakers, actors, foreign dignitaries and government officials,” Festival Director and UCC’s Film, Video and Cinematography Specialist James Okoit Owaraga said of the opening night.
The red carpet-and-cocktail fete will also feature screening of the festival’s opening film, a documentary about the history of Uganda’s film industry, popularly known as Ugawood.
The film is said to portray Ugawood as Uganda’s next big money industry, and is one of the over 180 films scheduled to screen during the five-day festival. All screenings are free of charge and will happen at Cineplex Cinema, Tuesday to Thursday, 9am to 6pm.
For those who can’t access Cineplex, concurrent open air screenings will be running at Nakivubo Park Yard, Mukono Taxi Park and Natete Taxi Park.
“We call upon every Ugandan to turn up and support Ugandan films. We have quite a number of great movies to show you,” UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi said.
A series of workshops, seminars and master classes tailored to equip Ugandan filmmakers and actors with hands-on skills will also run alongside the screenings, and will be facilitated by Hollywood director and Maisha Film Lab founder Mira Nair, Generations Actress Rosie Motene and a couple of other famous filmmakers and experts from South Africa, Nigeria and Sweden.
But despite the recently released official eight-category nomination list for the festival, UCC insists the awards night, to be held at Serena on Friday, is trivial compared to the exposure and networking platform UFF will offer Ugandan filmmakers.
“Our main focus is on the workshops, screenings and the film exhibition rather than the awards. We are most interested in promoting the industry as whole, not just few outstanding individuals,” UCC’s head of Multi-media Services, Meddie Kaggwa Ssebagala, explained.
Filmmakers however seem to be more interested in the hefty awards at stake, including cash prizes, trips to international film festivals and plaques, the reason complaints on how UCC came up with the nomination list have started creeping up.
Hit local film, State Research Bureau (S.R.B), and new ghostly thriller Okusaalimba, are leading the nomination pack with four slots each. Ekikolimo has three while Atataka: That Small Piece and King’s Virgin scooped two each.
Non-nominated films will however get their fare share of limelight since they have been accorded equal screen time and publicity.