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‘We will not allow to be exploited’ – Local film makers speak out on Bollywood actors’ visit to Uganda

Bollywood producers, directors and actors pose for a group photo with Ugandan actors, producers and directors after a dinner at Skyz Hotel, Kampala. Photo by Eric Kyama

A visit by Indian movie industry heavy weights has been met with skepticism from Ugandan movie producers and directors.

The producers are afraid that the Indian actors, popularly known as Bollywood actors, are simply being opportunistic and that players in the Ugandan movie industry will not benefit from their visit.

This concern was raised during a dinner held at Skyz Hotel on Saturday organized by ministry of Gender, Labor and Social development.

According to Juliana Naumo Akoryo, the commissioner for culture and family affairs in the ministry, the dinner was aimed at establishing a working relationship between players in the Ugandan movie industry and Bollywood.

During the dinner, Steve Ayeny, a film Director and producer argued that foreign movie directors are constantly exploiting Ugandan movie industry players.

“These people have come to Uganda, but to them it could be an opportunity to shoot a few movies here. And they are using our God-given environment without us the players in the Ugandan movie industry benefiting. I heard one of them say that they will shoot a few films, but they didn’t mention involving Ugandan producers and directors.”

The actors pose with Minister Kiwanda and Ambassador Grace Akello. COURTESY PHOTO

Mariam Ndagire, also a movie producer and director, emphasized that if Bollywood directors and producers are to shoot movies in Uganda, then local production teams should be involved.

“I think to avoid being exploited, we should be involved in the filming, at least 70 per cent of the people involved should be Ugandans,” she emphasized.

Additionally, Yusuf Kaija, a Ugandan movie producer, hinted on the issue of pay. He noted that most Ugandan actors, producers and directors are underpaid when they take part in film projects spearheaded by foreign movie directors.

“I have come to observe that Ugandan actors, producers and directors involved in movie projects spearheaded by foreigners are usually under paid. I think the government needs to address such issues so we are not exploited,” he pointed out.

However, Francis Peter Ojede, the Executive Director, Uganda National Cultural Centre [UNCC], during an interview responded that Government has a plan: “Unless someone tells you why they have come, you can’t tell what their intention is, but we, as government, are doing our role.”

When asked to clarify on what the government is doing to address issues raised by Ugandan movie producers, Ms Akoryo, said that there indeed has to be a co-production agreement between the two parties.

“We are drafting a film policy. We have consulted most stake holders and it is in its final stages,” she said.

Background

Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda on official tour to India in 2017, invited Bollywood directors, producers and actors to Uganda.

This, according to Mr Ojede, was done with the aim of them helping the Ugandan movie industry grow with the help of Bollywood.

“When the Prime Minister visited India, he was amazed by their movie industry, so he thought them working hand in hand with Ugandan movie industry players would help the industry grow thus creating more employment opportunities for Ugandans,” Ojede said.

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