It might be just days since he won an award at East Africa’s premium film festival, but Ugandan filmmaker Hassan Mageye is already sure the milestone will turn around his career.
Mageye’s film, King’s Virgin, was on Saturday crowned Best East African Film at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (Ziff) in Zanzibar, Tanzania, beating off stiff competition from dozens of other titles from across the region.
Unfortunately, the fast-rising filmmaker did not attend the ceremony held in the historic seaside city of Stone Town. His award was instead picked up by this writer, who was part of the festival’s storytelling workshop courtesy of a German International Cooperation (GIZ) sponsorship.
A brief ceremony was yesterday organized at the Uganda Film Classification Secretariat offices in Kampala, where this writer works, to give Mageye his gold-plated dhow-shaped statuette.
And the 31-year-old soft spoken filmmaker told of how winning the prestigious accolade has given him new goals in life.
“I feel like I have now set the bar so high for myself. My plan now is to start making films that appeal to a global audience and can compete on the world stage,” he elatedly announced, revealing the film’s selection was itself a big surprise.
He said he only submitted in the film as an experiment to gauge himself against filmmakers from other African countries.
But then it had been clear righty from the onset that King’s Virgin was no ordinary film – it went to Ziff after collecting five awards at the Pearl International Film Festival (Piff) and two nods at Uganda Film Festival (UFF) in Kampala last year.
In Zanzibar, the low-budget picture stunned audiences with its critical portrayal of a traditional African King who is allowed to amass a harem of young virgin girls for sexual pleasure.
Amid the hype enjoyed by the international films that participated at this year’s Ziff – including Half of a Yellow Sun (Nigeria/U.S.A), The Thorn of the Rose (Guinea Bissau/Portugal) and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (South Africa/U.S.A) – the Ugawood film still managed to draw sizable audiences to its screenings.
The awards jury chose it on grounds of its authentic storytelling, great acting and panafrican themes, something Hassan says is easy to pull off even with less than Shs10m as a production budget.
“What government should focus on now is addressing issues relating to film distribution, copyright and training,” he said, challenging other Ugandan filmmakers to copy his example and start making films that challenge the system.
The South African-trained filmmaker now hopes to submit his award-winning film to other festivals as well as officially premiering it in Kampala before end of this year.
But the one thing Mageye will be keeping a keen eye on is this Saturday’s Piff awards at Hotel Triangle in Kampala.
His latest film, The Clan’s Wife, which explores the mid-80s HIV/AIDS scourge in western Uganda, heads to the ‘Ugandan Oscars’ with a whooping 12 nominations including the ‘big four’.
It’s also in contention for a number of awards in the technical and supporting cast categories, and yet Mageye reckons it will do much better than King’s Virgin.