Ugandan film’s leap

Members of the film fraternity celebrate winning awards during the film festival award night at the National Theatre. COURTESY PHOTO

What you need to know:

The Pearl International Film Festival. The film industry in Uganda is persistent in its effort to improve despite the challenges on ground. The recent film festival showed some strides.

For an art form that is relatively young on the home soil, film is making great leaps. 2005 marks the year of assent of film into public recognition, a time where many enthusiasts were proud to classify themselves as cinematographers in varied capacities.

And with Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) currently preparing regulations starting next year that require Ugandan television to broadcast 70 per cent Ugandan content, of this 40 per cent to independent productions, film is set for further progress. It must be with foresight hence that Pearl International Festival, a platform catering for 80 per cent of Ugandan Film was founded.

Sticking to the familiar
And true to their intent from May 13 to May 16 at the National Theatre, was an extravaganza of Ugandan film. The festival started three years ago and this installment was aptly dubbed “The 3rd Pearl International Film Festival: Opening the 2nd Jubilee with Film”. Away from the hefty budgets, epic productions, conspiracies and the glamour of Hollywood red carpets, Ugandan film has stuck to what they know: the domesticity of home.

Like an infant that must rely on its surroundings for a clue on the mystery called life the films were about: the domestic turmoil arising from step-motherhood; the lures of teenage love and its consequences; or the religious and cultural disparities and the storms they churn in marital unions.
These domestics, if not the discontent in the dynamics of home, betrayed the ever imposing challenge that tradition and religion must adapt to context; youth to maturity in relationships; and that step parenting must steer away from prejudices.

Some nods
In A Matt Bish production titled “A Good Catholic Girl”, a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions might have been averted if proper courtship had been permitted as opposed to parental interference in the mate of choice fueled by religious differences. In “Omugugu gw’ ekkibi”, the wage for teenage love turns out to be pregnancy when parents spend time in perpetual disagreement other than educate their children on the maturity of relationships. A related thread was later stitched when the well-meaning intentions of step-motherhood are derailed by a gossiping and intrusive neighbour. These movies were coherent and their plots plausible. The acting in these films has evolved from the dramatic theater-on-camera presentation that had earlier marred Ugandan Film with over-acting.

A few misses
It is, however, the technical aspects, that still go begging and its still a common occurrence to have unnecessary shadows looming on set or the crewman’s cable laying where it clearly might have been edited.
This might be the reason why the 20 per cent quota for recognisable African foreign film was necessary. The foreign film in being better with their all round cinematography, amplified the errors of Ugandan Film and therein gave a much needed lesson. In the Cameroonian entry “Ninah’s Dowry” for instance, a near flawless story has been presented with a few technical glitches. In a testosterone charged episode the payment of bride price has resulted into untold cruelty when a woman (Ninah) is not only reduced to property but of the abusable kind.

The antagonist is memorably hatable and we know why- his acting is superb and so is his victim: her solicitations for sympathy are pitifully realistic. The choices of setting are no less well selected and very desolate: they dragged us to a near abyss where only gloom is possible. For Ugandan Film, challenges still abound. Along with technical aspects, there is still the question of a government that still refuses to recognise the importance of film in social advancement or has ignored it and refuses to invest in it.

Distribution and marketing of these movies still remains poor, a problem that the Festival Director Moses Magezi says must be rectified in order for Film to record further advancement. There is reason to be optimistic. With the emphasis on Ugandan Film and the UCC regulations in waiting favouring Ugandan productions for mainstream television, I can only predict the surge of Ugandan Film will truly experience a quickening.