Two Ugandan films for African Oscars

POLLY KAMUKAMA

Two Ugandan films have been nominated for this year’s African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) to be held in Bayelsa, Nigeria on April 24.

The country will be looking to overturn its dismal performance at previous outings when the awards hold their tenth edition this month, with our representation coming by way of two films – The Felistas Fable and Haunted Souls – which make up a combined total of three nominations.

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Veronica Namanda appearing as the titular character Felistas in Felistas Fable, an outcast women suffering from fistula.

Both films head to the awards with some clout, having done rounds on the international festival circuit and courted good reviews; but nonetheless still remain underdogs compared to their competitors.

Felistas, from director Dilman Dila, tells an emotional story of a woman plagued with fistula disease. The film is up for two awards –Achievement in Make-up and Best First Feature Film by a Director – but the competition appears much stiffer in the latter category which pits Dila against some of the most trending names in African cinema at the moment.

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A poster promoting Haunted Souls. The Ugandan film is up for Best Short Film award at this year’s AMAA due for April 24.

Particularly, Dila’s strongest challenge in the category is the South Africa duo of Andrew Mudge and Roberta Durrant, whose respective films, The Forgotten Kingdom and Felix, boast a combined total of 17 nods in the 27-category competition.

But the local picture, which debuted in Kampala recently following a January 2013 world premiere in Sweden, stands a better chance in the other category, where it’s facing off against four other films.

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‘Felistas Fable’ has been hailed for its superb make-up, including moulding characters to look like ‘monsters’ and dead bodies.

Throughout its stints on the festival circuit, Felistas has been lauded for its superb make-up, even inspiring actor and make-up maestro Michael Wawuyo Sr to a nod at the recently concluded Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA), where he lost to Elayne Okaya from Kenya’s Nairobi Half Life.

Haunted Souls on the other is vying for the Best Short Film award, but faces a tough challenge from four other films including Nigeria’s Living Funeral and South Africa’s Phindile’s Heart.

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A scene from ‘Haunted Souls’

Chronicling an LRA rebel commander’s a runaway wife trying to avoid being recaptured back into bondage, the Godwin Otwoma-directed 30-minute film charmed audiences at Zanzibar, Durban and most recently Luxor film festivals.

Uganda still ranks down the pecking order of cinematic development on the continent, but has nonetheless previously denied odds to emerge victorious at the AMAA – most notably in 2009 when Matt Bish’s directorial debut, Battle of the Souls, won two awards.

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Uganda has had a few lucky days at AMAA such as was the case back in 2010 when ‘Imani’ topped the Indigenous Language category. Seen here holding AMAA gongs is the film’s lead actress, Rehema Nanfuka (C), and the director, Carol Kamya (R).

The following year, Carol Kamya’s Imani won the Best African Language Film category; and last year, 13-year-old Benjamin Abemigisha was the surprise winner of Best Child Actor award courtesy of his cameo role in Patrick Sekyaya’s racially-charged drama, The Ugandan.

Yet industry watchers are hopeful this year’s triple nomination might as well bring us some glory at the ‘African Oscars’.

Elsewhere, controversial South African film Of Good Report is leading this year’s AMAA awards race with a whooping 13 nods including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor in Leading Role and Best Cinematography.

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Ghanian actor, Majid Michael, accepting an AMAA at the ceremony’s 2012 edition.

Shot in black and white, the film charts the story of a perverted high school teacher whose obsession with young girls leads him to commit a murder. It sparked outrage in South Africa last year when government banned it a few minutes to its premiere on grounds of abetting child pornography. It has however since been unbanned, souring its worldwide popularity.

Closing in on the title race with nine nods is another South African film, The Forgotten Kingdom, about a young man returning from the city to bury his estranged father in his ancestral home in rural scenic Lesotho.

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A Nigerian actress poses with her award two years ago.

The Kenyan film set in the aftermath of the 2007/8 bloody post election violence, Ni Sisi, also puts in a good show with a total of four nominations. But as usual, the awards are expected to be dominated by Nigeria, which has more than one nominee in nearly every category.

Known for their glitz and glam, as well as helping to put African cinema on the world map, AMAA has grown to recognize films from outside the continent. This year’s edition will also feature two new categories aimed at honoring great African statesmen.

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A lovely couple makes an appearance at a previous AMAA ceremony.

But the awards’ organizers will need to shake off last year’s sour taste, having been accused of favoring Nigeria, whose vibrant film industry has both boosted and betrayed African cinema in equal measure. There were also complaints of poor lodging and feeding from the Kenyan nominees.

There’s however no denying AMAA’s credibility, particularly in terms of rewarding and inspiring young African film professionals to great heights.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

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