National film festival kicks off in high gear

POLLY KAMUKAMA

Kampala, Tuesday: Organizers of the Uganda Film Festival (UFF) have silenced their critics by holding a thrilling opening ceremony last evening at Serena Hotel, Kampala.

Earlier in the day, there had been boycott threats by a section of the local filmmaking community who had not been invited to the exclusive opening fete.

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Film screenings kick off today at the Cineplex Cinema. (Photo/Courtesy)

Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the festival’s organizers, however seemed unfazed by these threats, despite a surging online debate following this website’s breaking of the story.

Luckily for UCC, most of the aggrieved filmmakers eventually made it to Serena through backdoor means, and hence won’t be snubbing the festival.

By 6pm, Serena gardens were teeming with hundreds of sharply-dressed guests, including local filmmakers, actors, foreign dignitaries, government officials and pressmen among others. By the time the show eventually kicked off at 7:30pm, patrons had done justice to the open bar and many could be seen wobbling to the tent for further proceedings.

First, there was the opening film – an informative documentary about the history of Uganda’s film industry, better known as Ugawood.

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Some filmmakers miraculously found their way to Serena minus official invitation.

“It started as an experiment but I was totally surprised at the amount of money I made from that film. I even screened it in London,” Director Ashraf Simwogerere was quoted saying in reference to his 2005 debut movie, Feelings Struggle, credited as Uganda’s very first film.

Speaker after speaker praised UCC for starting up UFF, an initiative taunted to transform the industry into a top cultural, entertainment and economic hub.

“We (UCC) are working with a number of other government agencies to make sure that our film industry emerges as the best in the region in the next three to five years,” UCC executive director, Godfrey Mutabazi, told guests.

A self-confessed movie fan, Mutabazi said his organisation’s next move is to eradicate piracy so as to help Ugandan filmmakers make money out of their works.

 “We are looking at shipping in sofiscated technology which will make it impossible to duplicate a film,” Mutabazi said, urging Ugandans to turn up for the free entry screenings at Cineplex Cinema.

The screenings last from today until Thursday, and will be succeeded by an exclusive closing ceremony at Serena on Friday where hefty awards will be given out to winners of the eight competition categories.

A parallel bouquet of seminars, workshops and trainings, and a film market will be running will be running at Cineplex and National Theatre respectively.

Guest of Honour and Minister for Information, Karooro Okurut, on the other hand promised filmmakers an assured market on TV stations, which have until end of this year to implement the 70% local content quota or face closure.

“I am totally humbled by the level of motivation and talent among Ugandan filmmakers. We will do all we can to improve the situation,” Okurut added after watching show reel of participating films.

She advised filmmakers to shoot more love stories than shock movies as a means of creating propaganda for Uganda. Basing on the festival selection however, Ugandan filmmakers are mostly fascinated by fetish and violent themes.

Elsewhere, in a bizarre move, award-winning director Patrick Sekyaya of The Ugandan fame has withdrawn his films from participating at UFF – apparently because he wasn’t nominated. We will keep you updated on this matter.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

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