Eleanor Nabwiso: I am never retiring from film
What you need to know:
Eleanor Nabwiso is no stranger to many a Ugandans’ eyes, having shot to fame from acting in popular NTV series, The Hostel. It is here that her acting dream kicked off and later saw her embrace film production, an industry she speaks of with passion.
“The adventure and diversity in film got me interested in the industry. The fact that you can act like anyone or tell someone’s story and make others believe it, is amazing. It is also amazing to know that you can express yourself through film to the rest of the world,” Eleanor Nabwiso says.
Eleanor, who got married to Mathew Nabwiso in 2014, met and fell in love in with her husband in 2010 during the production of the popular television drama series, The Hostel, on which they were both actors.
The Hostel revolved around the life of a group of university students living in a hostel and Eleanor played Hope, a born-again Christian girl trying to cope with temptations of campus life. It is this role that propelled her into the limelight.
Mathew and Eleanor founded Nabwiso Films (U) Limited with a vision of changing lives in communities through film. The former is the managing director/producer while the latter is the creative director of the company.
In 2019, Eleanor directed Bed of Thorns, a drama that tackles gender-based violence. Bed of Thorns, which was the first all-female crew made film in Uganda won four accolades at the 2019 Uganda Film Festival (UFF).
Their 2016 film, Rain, which is about keeping hope alive against all odds, won five awards at the Pearl International Film Festival Awards.
Their new television series, Family, is currently running on NTV Uganda. The series revolves around family drama that happens in a family due to diverse backgrounds.
Eleanor appeared in the films Rain, Watch over Me (2013) and the television series Beneath the Lies (2014).
The actor was born on February 24, 1989. She is the third of five children of Jane Frances Nakamya and Rev. Dr. Kefa Sempangi. She attended Namagunga Boarding Primary School, Seeta High School and Sikkim Manipal University in India where she pursued a degree in Information Technology.
You have produced and appeared in a number of productions, which one can you point out as your best so far?
I consider all my productions my best because they have all been recognised globally.
For example, my role in the film Rain has won me three awards: Best Actress in East Africa at the International Festival of Cinema and Audiovisual of Burundi (FESTICAB); Best Feature Film in Africa and the Middle East in NURAINE Festival and Best Women’s Rights Film at the 2017 London Eye Film Festival. I won the Best Actress in TV Drama award in the television series Family at the 2019 Uganda Film Festival. Bed of Thorns won Best Screenplay and Best Africa Focus Film at the 2019 London Art-house Film Festival, among others. So they all stand out in a way.
‘Bed of Thorns’ was produced by an all-female crew. What was this journey like for the all-female crew?
The journey was amazing, all the ladies were up for it and put in their best effort. We were two pregnant women on set; me and the sound engineer. But we worked until the end of the project.
The film industry is still dominated by men. How are women fairing in this trade?
Oh, not anymore, there are so many women doing their best in the film industry.
How would you describe the current state of the Ugandan film industry?
The Ugandan film industry is in a better state. It is growing so fast and the producers are up to speed and are producing great works.
How is the Ugandan film industry addressing the persistent shortcomings in cinematography, production designs and sound?
I wouldn’t say there are persistent shortcomings in those fields. Cinematographers, production designers and sound designers have recently been acquiring the required equipment to complement their work.
Apart from the technical shortcomings, what is the major challenge of the industry and how can it be solved?
Of course the financial challenge. A few producers can afford to take care of their production costs. While others shelve their creative content waiting to save up enough to meet their production costs. The financial challenge can only be solved if we have different film grants put in place by the government or the private sector. Film needs to be included in the country’s national budget, after all it promotes tourism.
You and your husband are into film and television. What happens to your children when you are all away shooting?
Most of the time we take turns, so we are on set at different times. But if we have to both be on set at the same time, we are blessed with a big family, so our mothers and sisters help a lot.
What level of support do you receive from your husband?
My husband supports me 100 per cent. He is there for me all the way when I need him, be it financially, emotionally or physically. I am really blessed to have him. He has sacrificed a lot to have me live my dream. And the best part is him being a part of it all.
How are you and your husband handling the media attention that comes with being in the spotlight all the time?
We keep it real all the time. Media attention comes with a lot of pressure. The best way for us to handle it is to keep true to who we are.
How do you juggle family, film and television?
I have time for family and television. I make sure I don’t mix these two. If it is family time, it is family time. If it is television time, it is television time. Although, I have a specialised timetable for my days and it works perfectly because I don’t miss doing my work or giving my family time.
What themes does your film company prefer to handle?
Our company Nabwiso Films prefers to handle health and cultural themes. We believe in changing people’s lives through film. We not only entertain but educate at the same time. Film gives us the freedom of expression and speech, that is why we will always put out messages that societies deem taboo or private yet they need to be addressed, for example things such as early marriages, gender-based violence, drug abuse, among others.
What would you have been if you were not into acting and directing films?
If I wasn’t acting or directing films, I would have been an IT specialist because my university degree was in science in Information Technology or I would be a public relations officer as I am naturally good at public speaking or a doctor since I love reading a lot about health and nutrition and some people call me a ‘health freak’.
Do you have plans of retiring from this industry in future?
No. I will not retire from the industry, it is an endless adventure.
What is your off-duty passion?
I love to hang out with friends and family, always trying out different restaurants and hangouts. I also like to watch movies, read novels and health articles. There is so much to learn about health and our bodies. Being a mom and wife has literally made me become a doctor.
What signifies your personal style?
I am mostly casual, playful and very outspoken. I speak my mind and will always say it as it is.
How do you manage your wardrobe?
For me it is always comfort first. I mostly wear t-shirts and jeans or a short dress and sneakers. But at the end of the day I will switch up my style according to the event I am showing up for.
While in East Africa, where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?
After a long week of work, I spend my Saturday afternoons usually at a children’s playground to catch up more with the little ones. Or at a restaurant that favours both children and adults so that we get to leave late. I am never specific on a place, we are always looking to try different places.
Describe your best destination yet in East Africa?
Well, in East Africa, my best destination would be Zanzibar; the coastal beaches are amazing. They are literally along the same road so I got a chance to keep hoping from one beach to another. The views and activities are all different. I love the water and activities.
Do you have a must-visit list?
Not really a must visit list, but there is one place I want to visit and that is Ibiza. I have heard so much about it and seen many pictures and videos.
Which is East Africa’s greatest strength?
I would say the wildlife, weather and the nature. I have travelled to so many countries and it is all buildings and built sites but here in East Africa you get it in its natural and original form. I pray and hope all our historical and wildlife sites are not tampered with for all the years to come.
What is your best collection of books or music?
For books, I would say The Sands of Time by Sydney Sheldon and The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day by John C. Maxwell, among others. And for music, I have a lot of original DVDs for all artistes I have loved from as far back as my college days.
What’s the most thoughtful gift you have received?
Love! Amidst all I am glad to have people around me that love me, it’s by far the best gift I have received. If you mean materially, I have received many thoughtful gifts and the list is endless.
What is the best gift you have given?
Love. I say this because as a wife and mother, there is no better gift I could have ever imagined giving to my husband and children. Everything else material can go to waste but the gift of love for me is timeless.
Which is the big book you have read recently?
The 21 Most Powerful Minutes in a Leader’s Day by John C. Maxwell. I gained leadership knowledge from this book, having taken on film production as a full time career in our company.
Which film has impacted you the most?
After watching “A walk To Remember”, I was so impressed by how someone can tell a story through film and have your attention and emotions on a roller coaster.
What’s your favourite music?
RnB and dancehall, although I cannot be specific on the artiste. As long as the lyrics are great and the music makes a great party vibe.
What does not miss in your fridge?
Milk and yoghurt. I like to have milk with biscuits and cookies a lot and if I am so busy and I skip a meal, the yoghurt sure does sort me out.