Stories through film. Besides watching movies for fun and entertainment, stakeholders in the tourism industry are investing resources in telling Uganda’s tourism stories through films and documentaries. Gabriel Buule explores some of the remarkable films, features and documentaries made to promote tourism destinations in Uganda aimed at rallying people to conserve wildlife gazetted areas.
If you have been watching films for entertainment, it is about time you started looking out for movies and documentaries that tell Ugandan tourism stories.
No doubt films and documentaries make people experience breathtaking locations and inspire them to explore new destinations. Film has been also used as an avenue to foster messages of environment conservation and the fight against vices that threaten the tourism sector.
Bradford Ochieng the deputy executive director of Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) acknowledges that film tourism is a vehicle for destination marketing. He revealed that UTB is exploring ways to generate money in the sector using untapped opportunities like film.
The executive director of UTB, Lilly AJarova believes the film industry has a significant impact on travel decisions made when potential tourists plan their holidays. A film can be used to promote the conservation of the wild, which is Uganda’s major tourism product.
She says: “Film is a great communication tool through which communities can be oriented on different topics and it has the power to propel them to join the conservation drive,” he adds.
Sides of a horn
Toby Wosskow, an American cinematographer and film director, visited Uganda recently to premier a seven-minute short film called Sides of a horn -a tourism and conservation-driven story that seeks to curb poaching of rhinos, an endangered specie on a verge of extinction.
Sides of a horn is the first film to tell the story of Africa’s poaching war based on actual events and filmed in the townships and game reserves.
The dramatic short film paints an unbiased picture of a modern war that is tearing communities apart and driving a pre-historic species to the verge of extinction. The few rhinos that exist are confined in a protected Rhino sanctuary in Nakasongola.
Wosskow’ s team was led by Uganda’s 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow, Shaban Ssenyange, who is also working on a documentary on tourism conservation in the 10 game parks in Uganda.
Ochieng says UTB is currently focusing on film to promote the tourism sector. He says the film has potential to contribute to the conservation efforts, as well as market available tourism products in Uganda.
Support for unique ideas
Bashir Hanji, the spokesperson of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), notes that the authority is ready to support anyone with a unique idea that seeks to promote tourism and conserve the wild.
In a bid to promote tourism in Uganda, local filmmakers on October 22, launched an initiative that is envisioned to support the development of the tourism sector.
Production of more films
The campaign will see the production of films, movies, soaps and television documentaries under the new umbrella organisation -Pamoja Film Makers and Distributors Association (PFMDA).
Iriho Petit, the association’s executive director, said filmmakers will promote some of the tourism sites across the country, where their films will be cast.
Ajarova revealed that Uganda has in recent years been known for its beautiful landscape and good weather, a thing that attracted film producers to Uganda.
Uganda filmmakers led by Ajarova represented Uganda at the Cannes Festival in France, in May this year. Filmmakers included Nisha Kalema, Malcolm Bigyemano and Sharpe Ssewali George, among others. On September 20, Uganda showcased faith, adventure and tourism film at the Akwaaba Africa Travel Market in Nigeria.
Uganda Communication Commission, which regulates the film industry will be hosting the Uganda Film Festival under the theme, “Film and Tourism in the pearl of Africa”.
Strict laws and bureaucracy
Filmmaker Samuel Kizito Saviour and the deputy executive director of Pamoja Film Makers and Distributors Association insists that the film industry is marred by bureaucratic tendencies in the authorities that would promote film and tourism.
“There are strict laws for filmmakers, especially when it comes to access to venues such as national parks and cultural sites,” he adds.
Free access for filmmakers
However, Hanji says UWA allows filmmakers to access national parks and locations of their choice as long as they are organised.
He says: “Some filmmakers assume free entry and exit in these parks. These areas are protected and as a body we are accountable. We must know who is visiting these sites so that we plan and manage guests. Filmmakers are free to access these sites but they should go through official means,” he adds.
Bashir says some sites are dangerous for film shooters and UWA has to provide game rangers to ensure their safety, which calls for official letters from authorities, in case the filmmaker chooses to use sophisticated gadgets like drones.
“Foreign film-makers are charged Shs2.2m but local filmmakers can freely access the parks and other protected areas if they follow the procedure of writing to explain what they need to shoot, the number of the crew, description of gadgets and vehicles,” Hangi explains.
Currently, there are no shooting fees for local film-makers except in protected areas.
Produced by Prairie Public, the film takes viewers on a tour to the developing tourism industry. The documentary is a six-year pilot project by the University of Manitoba’s National Resources Institute. Dr Michael Campbell assisted three Ugandan communities in ecologically sensitive areas to develop strategies to promote the tourism industry.
Africa’s Secret Garden
Released in 2018 and produced by Richard Vaughan, the documentary was commissioned by Uganda Civil Aviation Authority. It projects Uganda as a unique country with natural diversity and home to some of the world’s most welcoming people. The film showcases the well-kept secret that can only be explored by people who are looking for extraordinary vacation experiences.
Queen of Katwe (Feature Film)
A Disney feature film that stars Hollywood star Lupita Nyongo’ is said to be presumably the best film to sell Uganda abroad.
Omusinde (Feature Film)
The film produced by a local filmmaker, Aaron Zziwa, shows a young white man Sebastian who searches for his mother in Uganda. After finding out his mother is in Mbale, he gets challenged to settle in the new environment and adapting to the new culture. Eventually, he discovers that the new home is amazing. The Film has been nominated in the 2019 Uganda Film Festival.
The movie has also been selected in Silicon Valley International Film Festival in the USA, Montgomery International Film Festival USA and Wow international Film Festival in Tunisia-Africa. The best examples of tourism films are the famous series The Lord of the Rings that depicts trilogy. Since its release, the movie that was filmed in New Zealand is reported to have boosted tourism in the country.