Ugandan short film, Guno Mukwano (Is this Love?), beat off stiff competition from across Africa to emerge as the biggest winner at last month’s Lagos International Film Festival (LIFF).
It was revealed yesterday how the five-minute film about domestic violence overcame odds to scoop three awards, including Best Short Film, Best Actress and Best Director, at the acclaimed festival.
The revelation was made at a breakfast meeting held in Kampala to welcome the Ugandan entourage that graced this year’s LIFF which took place October 24-27 at the Silverbird Cinemas in Ikeja-Lagos, Nigeria.
The three-man team, comprising of Gerald Sserunjogi, Gerald Kaliisa and Hakim Bigaruga, all members of Uganda Film Producers Association (UFPA), a body that unites about 300 local film producers, had been invited to attend LIFF.
And at yesterday’s meeting, held at Ministry of Gender, Labour & Social Development head offices, and graced by government officials and members of the film fraternity, the trio told of their delight in Nigeria.
“We had no idea some Ugandans had submitted in their movies until the awards night when Guno Mukwano was called out. Everyone was totally surprised because the competition was too tight,” Sserunjogi told guests.
“And then we were called up on stage over and over and over again to pick awards. It was the ultimate publicity for Uganda’s film industry,” continued the UFPA chairperson, revealing he sealed a deal to have four collaborative projects with Nigerians to be shot in Uganda by mid next year.
In total, Uganda won five awards, the other two going to Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) boss, Godfrey Mutabazi, and Sserunjogi himself for their charismatic leadership of an industry still plagued by poor funding and audience reception.
It was however Guno Mukwano’s awards which excited guests most. The Luganda language film’s director, Sharpe Ssewali, said he didn’t envisage the milestone despite the massive critical and audience acclaim his short film has courted since release in 2011.
On top of winning Best Short Film award at the maiden Uganda Film Festival (UFF), the iconic film, starring popular comedienne and TV personality Ann Kansiime, has also participated at a number of other festivals across East Africa. Recently, this blog named it among the 25 must-watch Ugandan films of all time. Dreadlocked Ssewali nonetheless still insists he did see the LIFF win coming.
“I didn’t really think much about the awards because I knew my film was facing off against very good films from across the continent,” an elated Ssewali said of the film produced by Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida)-Uganda to fight domestic violence.
It has so far been a priceless view-friendly tool to that effect, thanks to its superb treatment of its violent plot in the form of a loving man driven to rage by his arrogant and violent wife. Instead of showing him physically battering her, the film stylistically cuts to the aftermath – a terribly bruised face.
“I am having the time of my life this year, and I don’t have any plans of slowing down,” an excited Kansiime said, holding on to her wood and metal plague, the second in a row for the petite and squeaky -voiced actress after she recently won Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts (BEFFTA)’s Best Comedian award in UK.
Most government representatives, including ministers Mary Karooro Okurut, Lukia Nakadama and Sulaiman Madada spoke of government’s commitment to developing the local film industry, including imposing a local content quota for TVs and Cinemas, establishing a film fund and signing of co-production treaties among others.
However all is not rosy for the Ugandan team that traveled to Nigeria as they are now facing jail over a Shs4.5m debt they incurred to foot their travel costs after various organisations shut doors on them.