A multicultural thriller set in Uganda and three other countries will start shooting in Kampala mid next month.
Titled Papi, the feature film will follow the life of a Congolese man who finds a job in Kampala as a boda boda (motor-taxi) rider, and ends up striking a bond with a local girl with a troubled past.
Speaking to this blog in an exclusive interview last week, the film’s writer and director, Kjell Clarysse, described his story as an African-European thriller about life and revenge.
“Each character in the film is totally unique from the other in terms of culture and background but yet they are all united together by a common factor,” Clarysse explained.
The 28-year-old Belgian filmmaker and photographer, who for the last two years has made short documentaries about Uganda for his home audience, is currently in Kampala to finalise production arrangements.
Together with his local producer, one Rhona Ankunda, with whom he conceived and developed the idea for the film at the start of last year, they have lately been on a successful location scouting campaign across the city.
According to the film’s official Facebook page, ninety percent of it will be shot here in Kampala with a few additional scenes in Brussels and Paris as well as Congo.
The multi-lingo film will apparently revolve around the titular character Papi, a Congolese dandy whose simple life as a motor-taxi rider is turned around after he meets his first client – a Ugandan girl seeking revenge on a Belgian businessman.
Papi’s character is enhanced by his lifestyle as a member of the Sapeurs, a Congolese subculture renowned across the world for its flamboyant dress code.
“Both Kjell and I love fashion so we thought it would be cool to make it an integral part of our story,” Ankunda explained.
The 24-year-old video editor and documentarian will make her acting debut in the film as the revengeful girl, Rebecca.
Leading a predominantly Ugandan cast, Ankunda will star alongside a real life Congolese Sapeur known as Papi and a novice Belgian actor named Fredrik Declercq.
Legendary Congolese musician and pioneering Sapeur, Papa Wemba, will also make a cameo appearance in the film.
Papi, Declercq and Ankunda are all Clarysse’s close acquaintances whose real life experiences inspired the characters they will be playing in the film.
And for a film that will be shot in three weeks across two continents on a relatively small budget of $30,000 (about Shs98.7m), it seems a rather wise move to cast cheap non-professional actors.
Much of the film’s funding is expected to come from an ongoing crowdfunding campaign that has so far raised $2,040 (about Shs6.7m) and has only 34 days left to expire.
But with the services of a renowned Belgian cinematographer and everything else already secured, Clarysse and team are buoyant they will hit the target in time for the scheduled August 17 start of shoot.
They are however struggling to get a set of identical twin girls aged between seven and ten, and have now launched an open plea with a potential reward for whoever brings the little girls.
Papi comes hot on the heels of Queen of Katwe, the upcoming Hollywood biopic about the Ugandan chess prodigy Phionah Mutesi that was recently shot in Kampala.
Uganda’s rich history, vibrant culture and beautiful scenery have often been used as a backdrop for foreign films at the expense of the local industry itself.
It thus remains to be seen what Papi will bring to the table.