Faces behind Uganda Oscar-nominated film

What you need to know:

Documentary. In 2017, working closely with co-director and producer Christopher Sharp Bwayo spent five harrowing years following Bobi Wine. During the production, Moses Bwayo was arrested, imprisoned and shot in the face while filming.

Uganda’s wait for her first Academy Award goes on. This comes after Bobi Wine: The People’s President lost out to 20 Days in Mariupol for best documentary feature at the Oscars on March 10, 2024, at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood, USA.

In the aftermath of the result, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine was quick to talk up the merits of Uganda basking in the glory of a rare Oscar nomination. The documentary film tells the story of the popstar-turned-politician’s political persecution.

The documentary makers, who followed Bobi—as Uganda’s opposition leader is fondly known—for five years, also had few regrets. They include Moses Bwayo who worked on the project as a director and director of photography. Bwayo is a Los Angeles-based Ugandan filmmaker known for shooting and co-directing the award-winning feature documentary Bobi Wine: The People’s President (2023).

Born in the village of Bududa on the slopes of Mount Elgon in eastern Uganda, Bwayo was introduced to filmmaking by peeking through cracks in the walls of local kibandas, bootleg movie theatres housed in wooden shacks. Wrapt in the exciting camerawork and storytelling of Hollywood’s martial arts films, Moses immediately fell in love with cinema.

At 19, he moved to the capital of Uganda, got a job as a portrait photographer, and began studying at Kampala University. In 2013, he graduated with honours with his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication. Bwayo went on to earn a postgraduate diploma at the Kampala Film School, the nation’s top film and television conservatory, and started working as a production sound recordist and cinematographer.

His life changed when he met Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair, who was facilitating a workshop for aspiring filmmakers at her Maisha Film Labs. He was chosen as a boom operator on Nair’s short documentary A Fork, a Spoon and a Knight (2014). Subsequently, Nair took Bwayo under her wing and mentored him for two years, during which he performed sundry jobs for Disney’s Queen of Katwe (2016), travelling to the United States for the first time for the final mix with Nair in New York.

In 2016, Bwayo started his own production company in Kampala, Jajja Productions, where he oversaw production and post-production services on various commercial, documentary, and feature films. Bwayo’s reputation as a courageous verité cinematographer and local fixer began to grow, shooting for ABC, BBC, and VICE News for their Uganda-based productions.

In late 2017, his life changed again when he began work on Bobi Wine: The People’s President. Working closely with co-director and producer Christopher Sharp, Bwayo spent five harrowing years following Bobi. During the production, Bwayo was arrested, imprisoned, and shot in the face at close range while filming. With mounting threats to him and his family for making the film, he fled Uganda to the United States.

The producers

Sharp was born in Uganda and has a deep appreciation for the country’s people, culture and extraordinary natural beauty. He spent his early working life as a film editor in London and more recently has revisited the profession as director of Bobi Wine: The People’s President.

He met Bobi and Barbie in 2017 and was inspired by their courage. Sharp believed in their extraordinary capacity to enact change, and instantly knew that their enormous sacrifice and resilience needed to be documented.

John Battsek is one of the most successful producers in feature documentary filmmaking. Starting with the Academy Award winning One Day in September, which John conceived of and produced, he has since been responsible for some of the most acclaimed documentaries in recent years.

Battsek’s most notable credits include the Academy Award and BAFTA-winning Searching For Sugar Man, the Academy Award-nominated Restrepo and Winter On Fire, and the Emmy-winning Manhunt: The Story of The Hunt For Bin Laden, The Tillman Story and Forever Pure. Battsek served as producer on the Grammy-nominee Eric Clapton: Life In 12 Bars and the BAFTA-nominated and Peabody-winning Listen to Me Marlon. Battsek also served as Executive Producer on the BAFTA Award winning The Imposter and Hillsborough.

In 2020, Battsek launched his new production company Ventureland with long-time PrettyBird collaborators Kerstin Emhoff, Ali Brown and Paul Hunter. His most recent credits include the Emmy Award-winning The Rescue (National Geographic), the double Emmy-winning Rising Phoenix (Netflix), critically acclaimed biopics Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In, and Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story.

In 2022 Battsek served as producer on Mary McCartney’s directorial debut, If These Walls Could Sing, the story of London’s iconic Abbey Road recording studio, which premiered at Telluride 2022 and was released on Disney+.  Most recently, Battsek produced the freediving documentary “The Deepest Breath” which premiered at Sundance 2023.