A total of seven Ugandan films will showcase at this year’s Zanzibar International Film Festival (Ziff), slated for June 14-22 in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
According to the 79-film selection list released at a press conference in Zanzibar earlier today, Uganda will be represented by six short films and one feature, making it the third most represented country after Tanzania and South Africa, which boast 12 and eight titles respectively.
Uganda, which has never had such a solid representation at Ziff before, will also take up a fare share of the festival’s side retrospectives including a screenwriting workshop and an exhibition to be facilitated by Maisha Film Lab and AfrikaTumefika fashion house respectively. A number of Ugandan artistes are also lined up to entertain guests.
It is however the seven films, up from last year’s two (The Ugandan and Haunted Souls), which are tipped to give Uganda an edge at East Africa’s biggest film festival now in its 17th year running.
The sole Ugandan feature, King’s Virgin, is a poignant picture of a pervert king with a penchant for young virgin girls. The Hassan Mageye-directed film dominated last year’s local festival circuit, winning five awards at Pearl International Film Festival (Piff) and scooping a nod at Uganda Film Festival (UFF).
The local favorite will however faceoff against some of the biggest titles in world cinema today, including the Biafra war-inspired Half of a Yellow Sun starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and the Oscar-nominated, Idris Elba-casting Nelson Mandela tribute, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the latter of which will open the festival on June 14.
Uganda’s numerical advantage in the shorts category however can’t be ignored. Karamoja in the Eyes of ISSP, will screen as part of the elite Ousmane Sembene category which seeks to reward the best three films with a development fund of $2000 (about Shs5m), $1500(Shs3.75m) and $1000 (Shs2.5m) respectively.
Love Thy Game on the other should rouse emotions in Zanzibar. The 41-minute film by Annet Nakamya is set against the backdrop of the tragic 2000 soccer worldcup final bombings in Kampala, and explores Ugandans’ undying love for the sport.
The Present, another Ugandan film, could also touch audiences with its portrayal of a discordant couple at the verge of making a life-changing decision.
Kuhani, a 7-minute film written and directed by US-based Ugandan actor, Ntare Mwine, on the other hand is based on Fr Anthony Musala’s now infamous letter exposing the rot in the Catholic Church.
The other two Ugandan films that made it to the list, Bye Bye Mzungu and Curse of an Addict, explore controversial subject matters. The former, an unforgiving tale of sex, race and power in Kampala, was written and directed by David Cecil, the British theatre producer who was last year expelled from Uganda over a gay play. The latter is about drug abuse and spirituality.
In addition to the seven films, Maisha, the premium film training initiative in Uganda, will facilitate an eight-day screenwriters’ workshop as part of their revived annual script labs. A total of four labs will be held in four East African countries, including Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, in which 60 aspiring screenwriters will receive specialized training. The winning short film script from each of the four labs will be awarded with a production grant of $2000 (Shs5m) courtesy of European Union.
AfrikaTumefika, a Ugandan fashion house specializing in African crafts, is also set to hold an exhibition at the festival.
Ziff usually provides only three days accommodation for filmmakers whose films have been selected to participate. But festival founder and director, Martin Mhando, is optimistic a new deal with Air Uganda could result into a full-sponsorship package for the Ugandan team including a fully-paid return ticket.
This year’s Ziff will be held under the theme: ‘A Common Destiny’. For more information about the selection list and festival programming, click here.