Kampala, Monday: A group of Ugandan filmmakers and actors are threatening to boycott the Uganda Film Festival (UFF) unless they are immediately invited for the festival’s opening ceremony, due to kick off a few hours from now at Serena Hotel, Kampala.
The exclusive ceremony is slated to attract at least 300 invited guests and will feature a wine and dine session as the nation welcomes a weeklong prototype festival aimed at showcasing and promoting Ugandan films.
But while the nation gears up, it has emerged that a bigger part of the local filmmaking fraternity won’t have the opportunity to be part of today’s historic event.
A large number of filmmakers have told this website how they have not been invited to the Serena fete which will also feature the festival’s opening film, a documentary chronicling the history and hassles of filmmaking in Uganda.he Route
Infuriated filmmakers, each speaking independently, have termed the exclusion ‘surprising, selective and treacherous’, and have vowed to boycott the festival if Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the festival organizers, does not send them invites right away.
“How can they claim this festival will promote our film industry when they are locking out the real industry players? We are the industry and without doubt deserve to be part of this glamorous event,” reasoned Director Habib Mahmood Kyeyune.
Ironically, Kyeyune’s eight films will be participating at UFF. He has also been part of a voluntary caravan campaign initiated by some Ugawood stakeholders to generate hype for UFF.
“All Ugandan filmmakers and actors are supposed to be part of this event. This is an event for artistes, not politicians and government officials,” he said in reference to speculation the guest list is dominated by bureaucrats.
Even those whose movies have been nominated for the festival’s awards, slated to be given out during another exclusive ceremony at Serena on Friday, have not been spared.
“This is unthinkable. UCC is such a credible organization and should have known better than to keep filmmakers out of such an important event,” said producer/director Hassan Mageye whose feature, King’s Virgin, is eyeing two awards.
Mageye will nonetheless attend UFF’s other programmes, including film forums, workshops and the 189 film screenings, all open to public at Cineplex Cinema, Tuesday-Thursday. There will also be open air screenings around Kampala and a film market at the National Theatre.
Upcoming director/producer, Jayant Maru, whose controversial feature The Route is nominated for Best Feature Film award is also missing on the opening ceremony guest list. By press time, he was still hopeful UCC might change their mind and invite him, a false hope that won’t materialize.
Director Joseph Ken Ssebagala, better known as Zenken, is another surprise miss given the fact that his globally-acclaimed film and one of Ugawood’s finest, Akataka: That Small Piece, is leading the awards race with a whooping four nominations.
Several other top local filmmakers we talked to, including Kennedy Kihire [Hangout], Rehema Nanfuka [Haunted Souls], Moses Magezi [Cindy], Dan Kigundu [Jesca the Queen] and Dickson Kaluya [Stranded] among others, have also not been invited despite their films’ participation.
However, some filmmakers including Matt Bish [State Research Bureau, SRB] and Mariam Ndagire [Where we Belong] have been lucky. Critics say this selective invitation will foster a polarized industry.
UCC however insists it was inevitable to invite some filmmakers and leave out others, given budgetary constraints and rushed programming.
“Our (UCC’s) initial arrangement was to invite a representative for every participating film. The problem is with the people who made the invitations,” UFF director and UCC’s Film, Video and Cinematography Specialist, James Okoit Owaraga, explained.
He said he will investigate the mishap, and promised to let in everyone who provides proof of representing a participating film, even if that person doesn’t have an official invite – something Mageye and other directors say is disrespectful.
Owaraga however maintains he was not responsible for making the guest list. Indeed, it seems the festival’s organizing company, Selas Ltd, might have had a hand since it was directly responsible for printing and sending out the invites.
Company director, Isaac Mulindwa, nonetheless blamed UCC saying they gave him an inflated guest list instead of the planned 300. “We sat with UCC and cut the list to the final 300, no more,” Mulindwa explained.
Whether this will affect UFF’s noble cause remains to be seen. But it’s certainly a lesson worth learning for UCC – a film festival belongs to filmmakers and actors.