The second edition of Nile’s Diaspora International Film Festival (Ndiff) yesterday defied odds to hold a fairly impressive closing ceremony at Royal Suites Complex in Kampala.
The festival, whose main agenda is to showcase culturally and artistically relevant films to Ugandan audiences, debuted in high gear last year with the maiden edition hosting the acclaimed The Young and The Restless actress Tony Lee Williams and Nollywood stars, Nadia Buari and Jim Iyke.
Such pomp was however not synonymous with this year’s edition which quietly kicked off last week at Serena Hotel. The opening fete alone, despite the red carpet glamour, pulled less than 200 people – down from last year’s large crowd.
Besides the Shs50,000 entrance fee proving to be too much for an ordinary Ugandan showgoer, Ghanaian actors Majid Michel and Jackie Appiah were a no-show yet Ndiff had assured fans the star duo would be present.
In a last minute disappointment, the pair told Ndiff organizers they would be caught up at an African Magic bash in Lagos on the same day. They nonetheless committed to attending other festival programmes, an empty promise that never materialized.
This angered fans and festival bosses alike, but it’s perhaps nothing compared to the financial strains Ndiff’s founders – Phad Mutumba and his wife Xena – have had to endure. The couple has had to foot painfully foot most of the organizational bills after sponsors slashed their endorsements.
Moviegoers attending Ndiff screenings also complained that Cineplex didn’t screen all the participating films, and that there was no proper screening order.
And with all this pile of woes written up on the festival’s wall, yesterday’s closing ceremony looked like it was headed for disaster. Impressively, however, Mutumba and company pulled off a great show filled with great entertainment and a homely ambiance.
By 7pm, about 100 people, which was pretty much the total audience of the night, had already made their way into the swanky Royal Suites, although many more gave up attending because the venue is tucked far off town in the affluent Bugolobi suburb.
And since there was no cocktail (you had to buy your own drinks), the show immediately swung into action with thrilling performances from NTV’s Talent XP finalists and a few standup comedians.
Soon, tensions began rising as to who would walk away with the prestigious Ndiff 2013 awards. A total of 48 films competed in five categories: Best Documentary, Best Foreign Short, Best Foreign Feature, Best Ugandan Short and Best Ugandan Feature.
Famed for its pan-African approach, Ndiff usually admits more foreign than Ugandan films. And this year was no different. Of the 58 films that participated, only ten were Ugandan with Canada and Europe dominating. Only six Ugandan films competed for awards.
The three-member jury comprising of Native Travel Festival Director and former journalist Sarah Nsigaye, Canadian Filmmaker Rene Germaine and myself, unanimously chose Sharpe Sewali’s Guno Mukwano as the Best Ugandan Short.
The five-minute daunting film about domestic violence beat off stiff competition from three other equally brilliant films – Bloody Sunset (Hakim Bigaruka) Watch Over Me (Kennedy Kihire) and Usama Mukwaya’s In Just Hours – each having gone to Ndiff with massive approval.
In the Best Ugandan Feature section, emerging filmmaker Jayant Maru beat his mentor Kihire with his film The Route, a commentary on the barbaric human trafficking trade, trouncing the latter’s gritty thriller Hangout.
Heavily pregnant Kona series actress Cleopatra Koheirwe looked smitten with her Kenyan costar boyfriend Lwanda Jawar Kotengo, and so did Mathew Nabwiso with his Hostel costar wife, Eleanor. Both Koheirwe and Nabwiso were awarded for promoting Ugawood beyond boarders.
The Director’s Choice Award went to British-trained Ugandan animator David Masanso for his Ganda folklore-inspired film Imitate, which is showing no sign of slowing down in terms of bagging awards.
Another highlight of the night came in the form of the closing film, It’s All About The Money, directed by Jo Wolfram Schefcik, a novice Australian filmmaker residing in Uganda. It is based on a true grotesque story of an Entebbe man who sacrificed his niece in the lame hope of getting rich.
While presenting the film, Schefcik was accompanied by a group of three disabled entertainers. Calling themselves ‘Temango Crew’, the trio mimed soulful songs and danced up and down, evoking wild applause from the crowd.
Mutumba thanked his guests and sponsors and promised that next year’s Ndiff will be held in October to avoid December’s busy schedule and brokenness. And there will be lessons to learn from this year.
Full list of winners
Best Ugandan Short- Guno Mukwano (Sharpe Sewali)
Best Ugandan Feature- The Route (Jayant Maru)
Best Documentary- The Birth of South Sudan (Nicky Lankester, South Sudan)
Best Foreign Short- Baba Noël: Santa Claus (Mattar Walid, France)
Best Foreign Feature- Welcome Yankee (Benoit Desjardins, Canada)
Director’s Choice Award- Imitate (David Masanso)
Honorary Award- Mathew Nabwiso and Cleopatra Koheirwe