State of Uganda film, audiovisual industry
What you need to know:
- Practitioners estimate that the Ugandan film and audiovisual industry employs some 5,000 people directly and 10,000 indirectly. The figures are, however, likely higher given the fact that the sector is largely informal.
The Ugandan film and audiovisual industry is overseen by a number of government ministries, departments and agencies. Each one manages a specific mandate in the regulation of the sector, according to the Unesco report The African Film Industry: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for Growth.
The report says when it comes to the film sector, government support is very limited. Most film professionals do not have sufficient access to venues suitable for shooting, and government agencies impose taxes at various levels of production, which substantially increases costs and hinders production of domestic films. There is hardly any form of public funding dedicated to the development of the local film industry.
Practitioners estimate that the Ugandan film and audiovisual industry employs some 5,000 people directly and 10,000 indirectly. The figures are, however, likely higher given the fact that the sector is largely informal.
No thorough mapping of the industry has ever been conducted to determine the exact number of people employed by the sector. A recent study by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the national statistics and planning body, estimates that the entire local cultural and creative industries contribute about 3.5 percent to the national GDP, of which film is thought to rank higher than most of the other domains within the sector.
Uganda has also served as a location for a few major international films, which include The Last King of Scotland (2006). In 2016, Disney’s Queen of Katwe starring Lupita Nyong’o was partly produced locally. In 2019, Kony Order from Above was the first Ugandan film to be submitted for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.
Overall, practitioners estimate that about 200 local films are produced in the country per year.
The film sector, however, faces numerous issues such as informal professional associations with minimal data collection, limited technical training, lack of access to funding, high levels of piracy and limited capacity amongst filmmakers to support local content development and professionalisation.
According to the report, Uganda also continues to lose huge revenues due to lack of proper film structures—notably lack of a rebate system as foreign productions of local stories have been moved to other countries. Some of the notable international films about Uganda, which have been shot in other countries, include Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981), The Silent Army (2008), Machine Gun Preacher (2011), Queen of Katwe (2016) and Seven Days in Entebbe (2018).
Distribution, exhibition, broadcast
Ugandan broadcasters operate on the barter model, which means producers have to purchase airtime to show their content and share advertising revenue with the station.
Most producers sell their content directly without intermediaries. The Association of Audio and Visual Distributors Limited is one of the bodies which assists filmmakers to sell and market their work.
Stakeholders estimate that Uganda has only 10 functional cinemas, constituting less than 50 screens spread across Kampala, Entebbe and Mbarara. These are mostly community and privately owned establishments.
In Uganda, TV set penetration reached 36 percent of households in 2019. Pay TV consists of direct-to-home satellite and digital terrestrial television. The free channel receptions consist primarily of digital terrestrial broadcast and are the most watched.
Funding sources, mechanisms
According to the report, filmmakers in Uganda grapple with a lack of funding for their projects. Public funding is not available. The EU-funded Unesco project for the development of the film sector currently underway is exploring the establishment of a national film fund.
In 2020, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) also launched a local film funding scheme, the Content Development Support Programme (CDSP), although it is still unclear how the fund will be run.
Cultural institutions and international foundations or NGOs such as Reel Impact Foundation and United in Film sometimes offer short film funds to creatives to produce short films and documentaries. Low budget films such as those in Wakaliwood are financed by private investors.
The Uganda Film Festival, established in 2013 by UCC, is the country’s major film festival. It spotlights local filmmakers and conducts training, workshops, exhibitions and outreach. Other local festivals include the Pearl International Film Festival (PIFF), the Euro Uganda Film Festival, and the Amakula International Film Festival, which was founded in 2004 and is Uganda’s oldest film festival.
Education and training
Founded in 2005 by acclaimed Indian filmmaker Mira Nair, Maisha Film Lab is the oldest film training institution in Uganda.
Other formal film training institutions include Makerere University’s Department of Performing Arts and Film (PAF), Kampala Film School and Proline Academy.
Due to the high cost of film training, most of Uganda’s filmmakers are self-taught. Practitioners estimate that some 200 students graduate from film courses in Uganda every year, most of these from private institutions which offer short training and courses.