The jury for this year’s Uganda Film Festival (UFF) has been given the nearly impossible task of reviewing 179 films in just ten days, we can reveal.
The over demanding assignment began yesterday following the arrival of the international juries over the weekend. Femi Odugbemi (Nigeria), Leonce Ngabo (Burundi) and Germany’s Barbel Mauch will be joined by Uganda’s Sr Domini Dipio and Faustin Misanvu to complete the panel.
The judges will be expected to preview all the 179 submitted films, compose the official selection, make the nomination lists and chose the winners – all in matter of ten days.
This extra burden on the judges accrues from the festival’s decision to abolish the pre-selection jury this year. The work of the pre-selection jury is to help trim down the submissions into a more manageable number for the official jury.
And their job doesn’t necessarily involve picking the best films, but rather those that resonate with the festival’s mission, theme and audience expectations. During the selection process, thus, a film’s originality and diversity is preferred over its technical perfection.
This writer was part of the five-member pre-selection team that volunteered at last year’s UFF. But some filmmakers felt they were cheated during the process, and have since advised the annual government-run festival to ditch the pre-selection procedure.
Reports from Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the festival’s organizers, however suggest that the decision was taken on the advice of last year’s jury after feeling they needed to see more Ugandan films.
Now, the mantle is on this year’s judges to get the work done in record time ahead of the August 25-29 showcase. To be able to pull it off, they will need to review an average of 17 films per day including some good number of features that drag way beyond two hours.
James Owaraga, a member of the festival’s organizing committee and UCC’s Film specialist, however told us in an exclusive interview last week that there is a possibility of extending the jury’s contract if the need arises.
Owaraga, who admits the young festival still has a lot to learn, also shared some insights about this year’s UFF to be held under the theme: Empowering Ugandans Through Film.
A total of 179 films, down from last year’s 189, have been submitted. Of these, only about 60 will make the official selection.
A total of 15 awards, up from last year’s eight are up for grabs including new entrants: Best East African Film, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Costumes and Best Documentary. Two honorary awards will also be given out.
A total of 13 films are vying for the regional award, and they are all from Kenya, including seven from one filmmaker, Jackline Anyango.
The biggest bet however is on the Ugandan films which only seem to get better every year. We have so far had about ten successful premieres since the start of the year yet many more films are expected to make their debut at the festival.
May’s Pearl International Film Festival (Piff), which can be seen as a benchmark for UFF, was a loop-sided affair with new AIDS film The Clan’s Wife scooping six accolades.
But the film won’t find it as plain ailing at UFF, where it will have to tussle it out with the likes of Reform, The Superstition and Plan B – all which had impressive premieres recently.
Among the much anticipated films lined up for premiere at the festival include: Kent & Kate (Jayant Maru), Stranger in the Mirror (Dickson Kaluya), Bala Bala Sese (Bashir Lukyamuzi) and Behind the Walls (Joe Nakibinge).
Applications to attend the festival’s workshops and trainings are underway, and successful candidates will be notified by email.
This year’s festival boasts strong corporate sponsorship which might mean bigger awards for the lucky winners.
Now in its second edition, UFF is part of the ongoing government efforts to promote Uganda’s film industry. But the festival has so far won as much criticism as praise.