On Friday, actress and producer Nana Kagga seemed to bury the ghosts of her experience at the Uganda Film Festival (UFF) gala in 2022. Then, she won the Best Actress award for her role in Nalwawo, a film she produced. She showed up to accept the award seemingly intoxicated and went on to talk to herself, but on the mic, thanking the barmen and the sponsors for the booze.
Yet a year later, on Friday, she was at the podium once again, this time, not for embarrassing reasons but for winning the biggest award of the night, Best Feature Film, for yet another film she produced, Mukisa.
Mukisa was the most nominated film for the festival gala that was closing the two week cinematic celebrations. With 17 nominations, the film took home awards for Best Actress, thanks to Tracy Kababito’s prowess in front of the camera, Best Director, Godfrey Kasozi, Best Production Design and Best Feature Film.
The film that rivalled them was Usama Mukwaya, Meddy Sserwadda and Hadijjah Nakanjako’s Passenger. The film had almost an equal number of nominations and won as many awards, such as Best Indigenous Film, Best Sound Design, Best Editing, and Best Actor.
The TV categories had been dominated by Junior Drama Club (JDC) produced by Allan Manzi. The show seemed to finally stop Prestige, which has in the past dominated the category, winning back to back accolades in 2021 and 2022. JDC also took home the accolade for Best Actress for Diana Nabatanzi, while Best Actor in a TV Series went to Amon Nuwamanya for his role as Baraka in The Kojja.
All the shows and films that dominated the night had one thing in common – they were financed. After 10 years of the festival, this probably remains the biggest achievement the industry has realised. Finally, some filmmakers can make films without worrying about the source of their finances.
From Mukisa to JDC to nominated projects such as Prestige, Tales of Our Time, Pieces of Me, Dial M for Maya, All for Love, Atonement, and The Matron, among others, all films were backed by MultiChoice. Through their flagship local content channels, Pearl Magic Prime, Pearl Magic Loko, and Pearl Magic, DStv has not only become one of the biggest buyers and funders of local content, but the only buyer.
For the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) backed festival at 10, only a sole buyer and funder did not look so good, yet for DStv as a content buyer and one of the festival’s biggest sponsors, the night was heaven sent. The festival was a roller-coaster that included workshops and film screenings.
However, by Thursday when the last screenings rolled at the Century Cinemas, it was clear that many of the problems the festival had to solve when it was started in 2013 are still present.
For instance, the films were screened before nearly empty halls for two weeks, those with an audience were friends, family, and crew members. The festival is still unpopular, and today, even when many local TVs have local content, that content is neither fiction nor documentaries. Even with more media players than there were in 2013, the level of piracy on licensed TVs is overwhelming.
And as many as 400 films have been through the festival over 10 editions, there is no clear place where one can find a Ugandan film when they want to see it. They are neither available for streaming nor in the cinema for exhibition, plus, there is not a distribution channel for the works people produce.
These have been burning issues that no one, both the filmmakers and the festival, have been interested in as much over the past 10 years.
Yet there are some things worth celebrating, for instance, a content support program has since been created by UCC, and the first cohort of beneficiaries will be releasing their films later this year. Through partnerships, the commission has also been able to help different filmmakers acquire advanced training, and this year they also held regional film competitions.
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