New Ugandan film The Counselor overcame poor publicity to enjoy a relatively successful premiere on Tuesday at the National Theatre in Kampala.
In a recent article posted on this blog, we reported of how a small production budget had seen a number of the film’s pivotal scenes omitted because producers deemed them ‘too expensive to shoot’.
The film’s writer and director, Hussein Omar alias Moses Ray, also told us that he never held rehearsals and that he allowed the cast to improvise a lot after he had changed the script on the last hour.
Well, similar blues dogged the film into post production with its only form of publicity coming by way of Facebook mentions, thereby raising speculations Tuesday’s premiere would flop.
But as luck would have it, Omar and team put on a fairly impressive show. First, they ushered their guests through a red-carpeted alley and treated them to a humble cocktail of soft drinks and snacks.
The 100-strong crowd, who had paid Shs20,000 and Shs50,000 for ordinary and VIP tickets respectively, was then treated to thrilling music performances including one that made the night’s highlight – a heart-melting rendition of Kenny G’s Going Home by saxophonist Michael Kitanda.
At exactly 7:30pm, the long awaited The Counselor hit screen, much to the delight of the already charged crowd. A portrait of a modern relationship, the film wastes no time in introducing its subject matter.
Bob (Nicholas Kayiwa), the film’s eponymous character, is a reluctant relationship counselor who only took up the job at the nagging of his wife Suzan (Mariam Kubita). Although a trained counselor, Bob’s real passion is in business.
But he’s left jobless and penniless when his business collapses leaving him no choice but to take up the job at a top counseling firm where he’s tasked with fixing other people’s relationships despite his inexperience.
He goes about his job unenthusiastically; often offering hilarious and nonconstructive advice to clients, until one day, a disgruntled couple (Michael and Rose) at the verge of a divorce comes knocking at his order for advice.
In his sincere effort to help them out, he finds himself at odds with everyone around him – including his wife, boss and best friend – especially when it emerges he has been going on romantic dates with Rose as well as flirting with his friend’s girlfriend, who also happens to be a co-worker.
The plot is simple and riveting, but most importantly it is easy to relate with. Through the numerous counseling sessions, it’s easy to find one or two situations that you’ve experienced in life.
The film explores a number of common relationship problems including insecurity (Bob’s friend and Suzan) lust and disrespect (Rose), whilst advocating for communication, tolerance and forgiveness as some of the solutions.
Regardless of heaping a little too much leverage on counselors as the ultimate solution to any marriage problem, there’s no denying The Counselor’s powerful message, especially in terms of attaching relevance to the slightest of things in a relationship.
For example, in one particular scene a man complains of how his wife has become fat while another woman says she’s tired of her husband’s wondering eye whenever they are out partying. To both cases, Bob offers a simple but marriage-saving solution: Take her to the gym and; try wearing sexy outfits whenever you are with him.
The cast, most of them first-timers, were amazing – particularly Kubita and Cate Ayellah (an extra). Their characters, however, lacked that extra development, save for Bob whose complete personality in terms of strength, weaknesses and conflicts made him easy to relate to.
The film’s cinematography was also largely limited to two monotonous establishment shots introducing Bob’s home and his workplace, rather than venturing into the diverse surroundings. But this was probably due to budgetary constraints.
All in all, however, The Counselor is a certainly a must-watch Ugandan film, particularly for married couples seeking answers for their endless problems. It’s a film that makes you realize you’re not doing enough to keep your spouse happy.
The film’s producer, Odie Trophimus, said he is planning for more cinema screenings in the days to come.