Ssekukkulu, a Ugandan Xmas film

Part of the audience at the premiere screening. Photos | Courtesy | Engero

What you need to know:

  • Even when Christmas remains one of the most celebrated holidays in Uganda, it has not inspired a lot of art outside a few songs

The first and probably only Ugandan Christmas film was Christmas in Kampala, produced by NTV years ago. The production followed a pregnant lady who was looking for a place to deliver her baby in the Kampala chaos.

Even when Christmas remains one of the most celebrated holidays in Uganda, it has not inspired a lot of art outside a few songs.

Which is partly the reason Ssekukkulu was highly anticipated. You could call it Uganda’s first commercial Christmas film; it premiered and in many ways has intentions of staying in the public domain.

The film which stars Sarah Kisauzi, Cleopatra Koheirwe, Mark Agume, Douglas Byaruhanga, Felix Bwanika, Eddie Abitegeka and Hasifah Nakitenda among others, follows a couple who travel to the village for christmas celebrations. As it is with such events, one thing leads to another, old wounds are reopened but soon, they realise that besides their differences and success, they are a family and basically that is what Christmas should be about.

That is in a nutshell.

The film produced by Sharon Ishimwe tries to capture the spirit of Christmas that perhaps can only be experienced by children. The joy of waking up and having to wear new clothes, showing those clothes off to other children at church, the food and sweets on the Christmas tree. It is a beautiful feeling.

The film producer, Sharon Ishimwe at the premiere.

We are introduced to the family of Mama (Kisauzi), a widow who has managed to raise her children regardless.

Mukisa runs a school, while the two others have stayed around.

When Mukisa, his wife Mirembe and son go to the village for Christmas, a lot of drama and reconnecting takes place.

Their son is in love with this girl he sees only once a year, she is in love with him and a family friend of theirs and the drama at their home.

A drunkard for an uncle whose mind is always feeding him with business ideas. He blames every member of the family but himself for his situation and for some reason, the mother always stands with him.

Ssekukkulu is a big shift in feel, colour and delivery from many local films, for instance, it is a film you are more likely to laugh at than cry. Most local films will potentially depress those in the audience because of their dark and grim themes, not this one.

It is a good feel film that has comedic punchlines littered through the script and for the audience, these work perfectly.

For the film and the story, however, the comedy and Christmas are an injustice at times.

Christmas does not service the story or the many storylines that existed in the script. The film appears as a story of a couple that went to the village and later left. Christmas besides being the reason that took them there did not add or reduce value of what the couple had between them. Maybe we learnt that the wife was expecting, but all in all, we could have learned that even if they had not gone to the village.

Thus most of the time it felt like the only reason the couple and the entire family existed was to celebrate Christmas. The children and many of the characters written in did not drive the story but existed as set pieces, which dampens the experience.

But above it all, Ssekukkulu was an enjoyable experience without being critical, there was a bit of everyone you are likely to see at a family get together later this month, though it could still have been way better.