Campaigns for the fourth annual Pearl International Film Festival (Piff) have kicked off on a high note with promises of a grand package.
Speaking to this blog today, Piff Director Moses Magezi said his festival is looking to cement its reputation as an industry model when it makes its fourth consecutive appearance this May.
“We have made a range of new exciting changes that will blow everyone away. We want to grow Piff into a brand not just a festival,” Magezi said in the exclusive interview.
Among some of the key changes is the introduction of two new awards categories – Best Regional Film and Best Student Film. The latter had earlier been slated to debut last year, along with Best Foreign Film and Best Animation, but was cancelled on the last hour due to poor submission.
Magezi says the regional award is aimed at decentralizing the industry which is mainly concentrated in and around Kampala, leaving loads of untapped film talents in other parts of the country.
And it appears to be timely given that government recently launched a similar programme to nurture film talents across the country. But Piff’s effort seems to be better organized and more result-oriented.
“We will first travel across the country holding workshops and meeting with filmmakers before collecting the films that will vie for the award,” Magezi explained of the March-April campaign that will make stopovers in Mbarara, Gulu, Jinja and Karamoja before winding up in Kampala.
A flagship festival hailed for addressing core industry needs, Piff is best known for uniting uptown and downtown filmmaking communities and for its vast awards categories – a record 15 this year.
Last year, the festival introduced the foreign section by screening Cameroon’s Ninah’s Dowry and Kenya’s Nairobi Half Life, arguably the best African films of the year. This year, however, the focus will be on East Africa with Uganda expected to constitute 80% of the total selection.
“We will only screen high quality and relevant films, so the selection criteria will be tighter than ever before,” Magezi added, revealing the festival usually receives hundreds of films every year out of which only about 40 are selected to participate.
An influential figure in Ugawood, Magezi has been part of the industry for six years, and has contributed immensely towards its development. He owns Jamo Productions, a film franchise that covers production, distribution, photography and Piff among others.
Of late, he has included a film school which he hopes will supplement the industry by awarding scholarships to budding artistes, particularly animators. Piff nonetheless by far still remains his most prominent brainchild.
Starting out as an experiment in 2011, the weeklong festival has since established itself as a popular event on the local entertainment calendar with thousands of guests jamming every edition. But it has also had its fare share of problems.
Last year’s winners are for example yet to receive their awards after Magezi apparently took them to UK for engraving. The festival has also regularly battled financial woes with corporate companies still seeing little need of sponsoring any film initiative, leaving Magezi to personally foot the bigger part of the Shs400m-plus annual budget. But he is optimistic things will be different this year.
“Last year’s winners will get back their awards before March, and we hope to bring more partners on board,” he said, thanking his regular sponsors Pepsi, Moonberg Lager and Galz Sports Betting among others for sticking with him.
He even hopes things would be better for his festival and the industry at large if government addressed issues of distribution and quality, and if filmmakers were educated and united.
Submissions into this year’s Piff are now open and will last up to mid March. Only films released between January 2013 to todate are eligible for selection. Submission forms are free of charge and can be got at the National Theatre box office, Hillz Jamo Videography (Majestic Plaza, 3rd Floor, Rm19) or UFMI offices at Jesco Plaza in Kampala. Online submission are available here http://www.pearlinternationalfilmfestival.com/.
The festival itself will as usual happen in the last week of May at National Theatre. See you there.