Kampala, Saturday: Hit Ugandan film, State Research Bureau (S.R.B), last night scooped three Uganda Film Festival (UFF) awards to emerge as the night’s biggest winner.
Released in 2011 and chronicling the mid ‘80s political anarchy in Uganda, the Shs20m production budget film has had one of the most successful streaks in the history of local cinema, having already pocketed a couple of international awards.
Its multiple nominations at the inaugural UFF hence didn’t come as a surprise. The multiple wins however did, seeing as it was pitted against some of the other finest local films in recent past.
In the Best Screenplay category, S.R.B’s stiffest competition came in form of two zombie-themed features – Okusaalimba (The Trespass) and Ekikolimo (The Curse) – which continue to awe audiences with their raw horror.
And in the Film of the Year and Best Feature Film categories, it faced off against what is probably one of Uganda’s greatest film exports, Akataka: That Small Piece, which has enjoyed successful runs at international festivals in South Africa, Germany and Netherlands.
The jury consisting of film professor Sr. Dominic Dipio; South African actress Rosie Motene; Nigerian film critic Madu Chikwendu and Swedish documentarian Suzanne Nilson; were however convinced S.R.B was a class apart.
The film, which explores the excesses of Obote II soldiers, could even have won a forth award had it been not for the jury overlooking Best Sound category on grounds that none of the nominees was good enough. They were however all given certificates of appreciation, with the special mention for this category instead going to a non-nominated film, The Slave.
But it made little difference to the S.R.B team, led by director Matt Bish and his producer brother Roger Mugisha, who couldn’t hide their excitement as they took trips to the podium to claim their awards.
“I could have as well chosen to stay and work in Netherlands after my studies but I instead decided to come back home and tell my own stories. Am glad it is paying off,” an animated Bish told guests, dedicating the big win to his infant daughter.
Bish’s other acclaimed film, A Good Catholic Girl, lost out to little-known Is This Love, a daunting piece about domestic violence, in the Best Short Film category.
The night however didn’t fall short of downsides. First, the audience questioned the jury’s source of power to nullify two of the eight competition categories – Best Sound and Best Cinematography.
UFF organizers, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), could also be facing a legal battle over the festival’s name, which Ugandan producer Ian Mark Kimanje claims to have ownership rights over.
Then came the fury of filmmakers who were not nominated and those who didn’t win. Outside Serena Hotel, the host venue, a group of rowdy filmmakers apparently threatened to disrupt proceedings because they had been denied access to the exclusive red carpet fete where drink and chop were served in plenty.
Those who got inside nonetheless lauded UCC for taking an initiative to organize an annual film festival and awards with the mandate of showcasing and promoting Ugandan movies.
Themed ‘Uganda Film Industry: Emerging Opportunities’, the weeklong festival, which culminated into the awards, featured screening of 189 Ugandan films, a couple of hands-on workshops and a film expo among an array of other programmes.
“We (government) have set aside a big budget next year to fund the development of this industry,” UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi told the excited audience, adding that next year’s UFF will be bigger and better.
On top of the general prizes, a marble plaque and a sponsored trip to an international film festival of choice, winners of the Best Student Film (Bloody Sunset) and Best Short Film categories received Shs5m and a cool digital walker set respectively, courtesy of Swan Air and DStv.
Elsewhere, embattled S.R.B star Prynce Joel Okuyo looked to have shrugged off recent allegations of human trafficking as he joined his colleagues on stage to jubilate the historic victory.
Full list of winners
Best Short Film- Is This Love (Guno Mukwano)?
Best Animated Film- Imitate
Best Student Film- Bloody Sunset
Best Cinematography/Photography- *Nullified
Best Sound- *Nullified
Best Screenplay- State Research Bureau (S.R.B)
Best Feature Film- State Research Bureau (S.R.B)
Film of the Year- State Research Bureau (S.R.B)