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Celebrity Profiles

Bagyenzi dedicated to telling a Ugandan story

James King Bagyenzi

James King Bagyenzi, a filmmaker based in Kigezi, south western Uganda, says he was inspired to direct and write films from the bed time stories his mother always told him.

What inspired you to join the film industry?

My mother always told me bed time stories and my father, who directed plays, used to take me to watch his productions. I fell in love with storytelling and the human condition.

What films have you worked on so far?

Prodigal Father, Waist Beads, Crumpled Flower, City of Dust, Unheard, Ija and More Grace, among others.

Describe your directing, writing and production styles?

I’m still evolving because our industry is still in its nascent stage but I’m very stark and realistic, I love heartwarming dramatic stories.

What is your experience with working with actors?

Because many come from a theatre background or from watching a lot of Nollywood films, they tend to exaggerate so I first have to deconstruct that and then help them to settle better into the character. Emotion is everything so I want them to express the right emotion for the right moment in the story.

Are you familiar with the latest filmmaking technology?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be the latest technology and it is fascinating what it can do. Obviously we do not yet have access to it but we can tell beautiful stories with what we have. It is also important to have cinematic cameras, for example, but you cannot get hang up on that.

How do you manage difficult production issues?

Every production in rural Kabale has extraordinary issues but the toughest is running out of cash. In my experience, Jesus always makes a way and I have learnt to trust Him.

What happens if your vision is not accurately represented by the cinematographer?

I communicate. Film has different viewpoints and everyone brings their expertise to a production. It is important to listen to all viewpoints and then make an informed decision. If I hear a better approach, I do not get stuck of my viewpoint.

Describe your process on a shooting day

I read the script thoroughly and immerse myself in the world of the story, then confirm that all the physical requirements like props and costumes to tell the story are available, and then deal with the actors and the crew. You pay a heavy price when you do not prepare.

Do you watch your own work to evaluate and improve your skills?

Always. We are a work in progress and every production is a learning curve, if you do not learn, you do not grow. Every expert team member comes with a wealth of wisdom and expertise.

What is the key in creating successful visuals?

The eye and storytelling ability of the cinematographer.

You scooped a regional award for Ija, what made the short film stand out?

It came at the right time. I and a couple of creatives from the Kigezi sub-region have positioned ourselves to tell the story of beautiful Kigezi and that is what the competition wanted.

What are your favorite films?

Films that have Denzel Washington, for example. His total commitment to the story and the character are fascinating. Stories based on true events like Hacksaw Ridge are monumental stories. These are the kind of stories I want to tell from our perspective.

Where do you see the future of Ugandan films?

We have just started so the only way is up. We are on the brink of greatness as filmmakers only if we appreciate the contribution of everyone and understand that it is teamwork and everyone brings their unique contribution. From western Uganda the challenge now is understanding that we must collaborate rather than seeing ourselves as the biggest, as Grace Villa says we rise by lifting others.

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