A Distant Grief, the upcoming international film about the martyrdom of Christians in Uganda during Idi Amin’s tumultuous eight-year reign, has been deemed ‘too holy and too black’ for Hollywood.
The film, which begins shooting in Uganda early next year, is an adaptation of the Ugandan politician and clergyman Kefa Sempangi’s 1979 autobiography of the same name.
It will offer details of how thousands of Christians were butchered on Amin’s orders in the ‘70s, as well as Sempangi’s own lucky escape from the dictator’s henchmen.
We earlier reported on this blog how the film was looking to get funding from Hollywood but has since been turned down, forcing its American writer and director, Dan Fabrizio, to produce it himself.
Now, a bitter Fabrizio has opened up on why exactly his project was snubbed by Hollywood studio executives.
“My film doesn’t have the extreme profanities, drug-use and sex scenes that usually excite studio executives,” a seemingly disappointed Fabrizio told us in an exclusive interview recently.
The 57-year-old documentary filmmaker, who was recently in the country to audition over 500 local actors for the film, said the producers loved his script’s violent and brutal nature but were nonetheless unwilling to invest in something that ‘doesn’t fit the Hollywood standards’.
He described the said standards as ‘the Adam Sandler type of movies’, and suggested that the film industry in his home country is deeply entrenched in moral debauchery, financial greed and racism.
A white American, Fabrizio believes his film was racially prejudiced because it is set in Africa and features a predominant black cast – another stain on Hollywood’s deplorable record in promoting black cinema.
But Christian films have perhaps suffered the greatest brunt of Hollywood’s commercialized system with such iconic pictures as Unforgiven and The Passion of Christ having been laughed off, but went on to become global hits.
And it is from such success stories that Fabrizio, a born again Christian, picks his inspiration to continue with his mission of bringing Sempangi’s story to the big screen.
“Sometimes it is not about the profits but rather the impact the story will have on society,” he says of Sempangi’s book, which has sold a good number of copies in Europe and America but still largely remains unknown to Ugandans.
Fabrizio first came into contact with A Distant Grief in 1990. He later befriended Sempangi, and in 2010, they co-wrote the screenplay.
The film was initially meant to cast celebrated American actors Don Cheadle and Dennis Haysbert in the lead roles. But now that Fabrizio can no longer afford the duo’s paychecks following the Hollywood snub, he will have to do with a cheaper all-Ugandan cast.
The film will be produced under Fabrizio’s Dogwood Media Productions at a budget of $5m (Shs12.5bn), which he hopes to raise through crowd-funding, individual sponsorship and a bank loan.
So far, Fabrizio and team have only been able to raise $200,000 (about Shs500m), but hope to get another $200,000 before end of year through a series of fundraisers in Uganda.
Another round of open auditions will be held in Kampala this September to find replacements for Cheadle and Haysbert plus a few other characters ahead of the January 2015 shooting.