Acclaimed Ghanaian actors Majid Michel and Jackie Appiah will not make it to the opening ceremony of this year’s Nile’s Diaspora Film Festival (Ndiff) like earlier advertised.
Ndiff organizers had confirmed to fans the star duo, who plies their trade in Nigeria’s Nollywood, would headline this Thursday’s glitzy opening fete at Kampala Serena Hotel’s Victoria Hall. Sadly, this won’t be the case as the festival’s founder and director Phad Mutumba recently explained to us in an exclusive interview.
“We just learned that they (the duo) will be attending an important gig in Lagos to cerebrate African Magic’s tenth anniversary on that same night,” Mutumba said.
Mutumba, who founded the festival together with his wife Xena and is better known from his stint as head judge at the ongoing NTV Talent XP competition, was however quick to clarify the two celebrities will grace the rest of the festival activities up until next Thursday’s closing ceremony.
“They will attend screenings, facilitate workshops and fundraise for our charity projects for this year including promoting film in schools and aiding a charity home in Gulu,” Mutumba explained, reckoning Michel and Appiah’s stardom will boost festival attendance.
And he might have a point considering stunning Appiah and heartthrob Michel are some of the most acclaimed names in African cinema, having amassed over 50 film titles each in their highly prolific careers, dotted with multiple international awards.
Ever since news of the star pair’s coming came out last month, social media has been abuzz with a barrage of passionate posts from thousands of excited Ugandan fans who could hardly wait to rub shoulders with some of Africa’s finest.
This is a Déjà Vu crisis for Ndiff. Last year, at the annual festival’s maiden edition, Nollywood stars Nadia Buari and Jim Iyke missed the opening ceremony at Sheraton Hotel in a similar fashion. The presence of the world-renowned Canadian actress, Tonya Lee Williams of The Young and The Restless fame however saved the day.
This time around, acclaimed Ugandan Saxophonist and Ndiff partner, Isaiah Katumwa, is expected to play the ‘savior’ role by entertaining guests with his uplifting tunes on Thursday.
Mutumba and Xena are Ugandan although they also hold Canadian passports having lived and worked in the North American country for a long time. They founded Ndiff in a hope to promote local cinema and bring the African Diaspora closer to Ugandan audiences.
They have however occasionally come under fire for making their festival too elitist and foreign by favoring non-Ugandan films. At the maiden edition, a total of 27 Ugandan films participated.
That number has since drastically shrunk to only four this year – The Route (Jayant Maru), In Just Hours (Usama Mukwaya) and Kennedy Kihire’s Hangout and Watch Over Me.
Angry Ugandan filmmakers have since taken to social media to lambast the festival for not making submission procedures public, a claim Mutumba vehemently denies.
“We seek to transform lives through showcasing and promoting artistically, educationally and culturally significant films over their commercially-appealing counterparts,” he said of this year’s 52-film selection list dominated by low-budget Canadian, Spanish and French films.
We have since learnt that the festival has also given automatic selection to the six Uganda Film Festival (UFF) award-winning films as part of a deal with their lead sponsor, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).
That said, this year’s Ndiff awards jury largely consists international film experts with Makerere University film professor, Sr Dominic Dipio, as the only Ugandan. Among those tipped to be honored is Mathew Nabwiso, whose Best Supporting Actor-Drama award at the inaugural Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) this March was a big milestone for Ugawood. African Magic’s Kona miniseries Ugandan star, Cleopatra Koheirwe, will also be awarded.
Workshops and trainings this year will be tailored to empower Ugandan filmmakers to take advantage of government’s new directive to have all TVs broadcast 70 % local content during prime time beginning January next year.
Gates to Thursday’s red-carpet show open at 5pm. Free screenings and workshops will then follow at Cineplex Cinema before the festival winds up in a glamorous ceremony to be held at Royal Suits in Bugolobi.
Tickets to both the opening and closing ceremonies are already on sale at Shs50,000 and Shs20,000 respectively. See you there.