Bullion, the long-awaited Ugandan film that spent five years in production, finally premiered to rave reception on Saturday at Speke Resort Munyonyo.
There had been fears the crime drama featuring a star cast from both Kenya and Uganda would never be released after financial woes kept it in studio since 2009.
But then its producer, Henry Ssali, took to Facebook at the start of this year to announce the long-awaited premiere, sparking a wave of social media buzz.
Ssali and team then secured some hefty endorsement from tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia, who had also bankrolled the film’s production. Besides offering millions of cash, the richest man in Uganda also donated his stately resort to play host to the premiere.
By 6pm, a steady streak of moviegoers could already be seen making their way towards the enormous Victoria Hall ahead of the late evening premiere. The colorful branding from such sponsors as Daily Monitor, Pepsi and Nile Gold added a little flavor to the glamour.
The red-carpet fete was punctuated with an endless flow of drinks and bites, and drew in a 300-strong crowd including industry players; politicians; foreign dignitaries; and the city’s glitterati.
Socialites and actors were undisputed when it came to showing off the latest fashion trends. Ssali himself donned a fitting black tuxedo with a rainbow bowtie while the film’s lead actress Veronica Tindichebwa looked gorgeous in a flowing red dress and a chunky spiral-themed silver necklace.
The film’s director Phillip Luswata on the other hand appeared casually in an all-black ensemble, and so did the writer, Billy Ashaba who paired a light purple necktie with a grey suit.
Singer Irene Namubiru appeared hand-in-hand with the much-younger socialite Zipper Atafo, and appeared to have brushed her love wars aside as she chatted up various partygoers.
Sports analyst Mark Ssali, popular chef Uhuru Salim, radio personality Roger Mugisha, nightclub executive Gareth Onyango and actors Michael Wawuyo Jr and John Segawa also made some cool fashion statements.
It’s however the movie which stole the night. Bullion follows the circumstances surrounding a spectacular bullion van robbery by a group of bank employees-turned-thieves.
The film’s bad guy and lead actor, David (played by the Kenyan actor Ainea Ojiambo) is a sleek and duplicitous accountant who talks a group of colleagues, including bullion van driver Collins (Allan Tumusiime) and fellow accountant Nick (Muwawu Gwayambadde), into robbing the van, a heist worth $2m.
The trio is united by their dire need of money: David is choking on debts and has just lost his car to loan sharks; Collins has to take his daughter for a life-saving heart-surgery in India; while Nick is eyeing a prime piece of land.
Driven by their frustrations and the prospect of pocketing over Shs800m each, the trio goes on to execute the robbery well knowing of the catastrophic risks involved, especially given that the eagle-eyed police officer (Micheal Wawuyo Sr) is on their heels.
Boasting a solid supporting cast, including Ann Kansiime, Laura Kahunde, Juliana Kanyomozi, Richard Tuwangye and Wawuyo Jr among others, the film’s plot is packed with humor and tragedy in equal measure.
As much as David’s twisted wit provides some comic relief, it also incredibly arouses emotions, especially when he double-crosses his buddies and proceeds to seduce Collin’s wife, Sandra (Tindichebwa), with the allure of the stolen money.
“It’s a situation many women find themselves in these days. As a woman, you would do whatever it takes to give your child a good life,” mother-of-two Tindichebwa said of her compelling role.
The comedienne has gone through some sort of emotional rollercoaster of late, having lost a son to a long illness last year but yet went on to premiere two hit films this year – Spying on Suzana and Bullion.
Ojiambo, who is currently starring in top-rated TV series in the Middle East, on the other hand said his experience from playing bad guy roles helped him to nail his part. The Kenyan star spoke highly of the passion within Ugawood.
Luswata also revealed he got enticed onto the project after reading reviews about Ssali’s first film, Kiwani, back in 2008. He went on to shower Ashaba with praise, lauding his unique writing style in which actors telepathically complete each other’s dialogues.
Tumusiime was however a no-show, but he sent a heartfelt message to the audience via a video clip. The actor has reportedly found success working as a fashion photographer in the US, and can be seen posing with expensive cars in his Facebook photos.
And now that Bullion is out of the way, Ssali has his eyes set on the next project – apparently a Moses Golola biopic – and he hopes to maintain most of the cast and crew.