Acclaimed Ugandan filmmaker Patrick Sekyaya is smiling en route to the bank following last Friday’s successful premiere of his latest film, The Ugandan.
The Shs70m budget AfriPlus Films-produced movie made an impressive home debut by screening to a full 377-capacity house at the National Theatre in Kampala, after enjoying a successful year-long global tour in which it won a couple of awards and screened at elite festivals.
“All I can say is that I have made good profits,” a beaming Sekyaya has told us. “The demand was so high we had to lock out some people because there was no more room for them,” he added, revealing he will hold a series of other cinema screenings across Kampala before the movie goes on DVD.
But Sekyaya didn’t only make a killing from ticket sales. There was also the hefty financial endorsement from over a dozen topnotch corporate companies.
“I was probably the first Ugandan filmmaker to get as much support from the corporate world,” he boasted of the rare feat. It’s usually hard to convince companies to support local cinema, although a few good films have managed to do the talking.
“There is definitely no discrediting the role of my film’s international platform will play towards the success of its Ugandan premiere,” Sekyaya was rightly quoted saying ahead of the Friday show.
But he also had to put in an effort of his own in form of giving the premiere aggressive mass and social media hype. Such pomp was also evident on Friday.
A typical Hollywood-like red carpet affair, the fete saw a tuxedoed Sekyaya, his Indian fiancé and their one-and-half year old son, arrive in a white limousine amid wild cheers from hundreds of excited fans.
Screening of the film themed on racial tensions between native Ugandans and Asian-Ugandans was preceded by a polite cocktail, cake-cutting and photography sessions.
“I wanted to challenge myself by tackling this controversial relationship between Ugandans and Indians,” Sekyaya said of the film that boasts a novice cast of Ugandans and Indians.
Former Miss Uganda and supporting actress Dora Mwima caused excitement of her own while giving a brief pre-screening speech in which she lauded the level of unity on set. She rocked a tiny blue dress, flowing golden wig and a chunky diamond necklace. She crowned her stunning look with tall silver heels that made sure she kept a couple of inches taller than the rest of the film’s cast and crew.
Indian speakers on the other hand reemphasized their community’s importance in the development of Uganda. Despite the small population of about 20,000, Indian-Ugandans contribute over 60% to national GDP, statistics claim.
But obviously the evening’s encore came with the movie – a rather bold look at the conflict that has been raging since Dictator Idi Amin’s regime. The film opens with a powerful scene in which two frightened Indians are frantically running away from a machete-wielding mob of Ugandans.
We are then introduced to the main plot: Raman is an Indian survivor of the Amin regime who is blackmailed by his Ugandan girlfriend (Becky) when he claims his father’s property. Coincidentally, Raman’s daughter (Sonia) falls in love with Becky’s brother (Simon). Meanwhile, Becky’s other brother (Ralph) is hustling on the streets, chasing after a thug that has links to Raman and Becky, amid raging protests against Indians.
In this enthralling story of love, betrayal, violence and racism, the cast comes out on top of their game with each character nailing their role. Arfaan Ahmed and Tony Katabula were outstanding as Raman and Simon respectively.
The film nonetheless suffers from a poor script, with many dragging scenes and redundant dialogue. It’s still a masterpiece though, at least per Ugandan standards.