Piff 2014: Nominations on tomorrow, festival overhauled

POLLY KAMUKAMA

Following a spell of uncertainty, Pearl International Film Festival (Piff) has finally confirmed that will hold their nominees night tomorrow (Friday May 15, 2014) at Astoria Hotel in Kampala.

The announcement, made via social media a few days back, follows the premium annual local cinema showcase’s massive restructuring that will ultimately give it a whole new identity.

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A Piff statuette on display at last year’s festival.

There had been romours that Piff, which debuted in 2011 and has since become one of the most revered events on the local entertainment calendar, had closed shop due to financial and managerial problems.

The weeklong festival featuring film screenings, workshops and a glamorous awards ceremony happens every May, and is popular with audiences looking to keep tabs on Uganda’s budding film industry.

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Actors Tania Kankindi and Richard Valentino at last year’s nomination night.

This year, however, Piff has stayed under the radar, triggering speculations it had followed in the tracks of its predecessor, Amakula, which last year folded after ten successful years as the country’s leading film festival.

Despite having kicked off on a high note, opening their submissions in January and announcing new exciting programmes, little has since been heard of Piff 2014. It was until a few days back that the festival’s founder and director, Moses Magezi took to Facebook to announce tomorrow’s nom night, much to the delight of local cinephiles.

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Piff founder and director, Moses Magezi, seen here with actress Faridah Kutesa, has cited the need to attract sponsors and new audiences as the major reasons behind the festival’s overhaul.

And in an exclusive interview with this blog yesterday, Magezi spoke of how he has had to rebrand Piff in order to reach out to more audiences and tap more sponsors.

Previously, all the festival’s activities have been happing at the National Theatre during the second week of May. Beginning this year however, the festival will be held in two phases, and will largely target bibandas (video shacks) and the downtown community.

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Actors Sara Kisauzi and Rhonnie Nkalubo enjoying a chat at last year’s nomination night.

The first phase (May 30- June 14) will include workshops around Kampala and open air screenings in places as far as Jinja, Masaka and Mbarara. The second phase (third week of June) will on the other hand feature a syndicated screening programme across a number of bibandas and at least one cinema around Kampala, and will end with the awards ceremony at the theatre.

“A lot of potential sponsors didn’t feel comfortable with us being confined in one place, so we felt we could get more sponsorship if we spread out,” Magezi told us, adding there was also a need to bring new audiences on board.

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Popular radio personality Roger Mugisha at a previous Piff event.

Despite commanding a huge following, Piff has consistently struggled with sponsorship, and more than often, Magezi and team have to strain their pockets to foot the Shs600m annual budget without getting any returns.

They are however hopeful they will get to convince some corporate companies to join Pepsi as their lead sponsor this year. And that might depend on how tomorrow’s ceremony goes.

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Piff debuted four years back, but has since grown to become a festival of choice for actors and fans.

By press time, many filmmakers and actors were waiting with bated breath for a possible nomination in the fourth installment of Piff awards, also known as Ugandan Oscars.

A total of 17 competition categories, up from last year’s 13, are up for grabs, with each expected to pit five nominees. There are also four honorary awards given out at the discretion of the festival’s organizing committee.

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Actors Monica Birwinyo and Yasin Lubowa at last year’s opening night.

The nominees will be selected from a total of about 50 participating films, up from last year’s 30. We could not verify which other titles were submitted in, but the likes of Die With Me, Game On, Haunted Souls and The Clan’s Wife will likely lead the awards race.

Acclaimed filmmaker and Makerere University lecturer, Cindy Magara, will head this year’s jury.

Tomorrow’s red-carpet fete at Astoria Hotel, SB Plaza, Burton Street, is open to all members of the public free of charge. Gates will open at 4pm. See you there.

kamukamapolly@gmail.com

 

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