After The Last King of Scotland was shot in 2006, the rest of the world started noticing Ugandan artists in the film industry. Roger Mugisha, radio presenter come film producer, and his brother, Bish, released their first film, The Battle of the Souls which premiered in Hollywood in 2008. A couple of other artists, like Prynce Okuyo, have also made it on the international scene after being nominated, and winning, the best actor award for his role as James in the film, State Research Bureau, in the Zanzibar film festival in 2010.
Still, compared to their counterparts in Nigeria, Ugandan film achievements are little spoken about. The industry in ‘Nollywood’ has grown over the years and notable Nigerian actors travel around the world and are as well known as the actors that have come out of Hollywood. The most famous of these being Ramsey Noah and Genevieve Nnaji, who graced the Uganda film awards last year.
This does not mean, however, that Ugandan artists have taken a back seat and now more acts are coming out of Uganda. The Ebonies Group has been making film for almost 20 years now and is most remembered for their TV series That’s Life Mwatu. Recently, they developed another comedy/musical TV series called, Life Kye Kki that is acted in English with Luganda with subtitles. The Hostel TV show is another new series that is completely in English, and has had some success with younger viewers across the country. Additionally, more theatre groups like Fun Factory and Theatre Factory are also venturing into the TV business by recording live performances and screening them on TV.
Much of the rising talent has come through the Maisha Film Lab that has run every year since 2006. This selective competition begins with a call for applications sent out at the beginning of each year and, by April, the participants selected are contacted to attend the film lab that starts in July for three weeks. The Maisha Film Lab caters for room and board and attracts participants from East Africa and South Asia. The participants include screenwriters, actors, directors, camera, editors and sound operators. Most artists that attend this lab are starting from scratch, have a desire to become better at their craft, or are already in the industry and want to polish their skills. Three short films are selected to be shot during the course of the workshop and participants will serve as crew.
Beginning in 2012, ‘Film in Africa’ has also started holding workshops in Uganda around the same time as the Maisha Film Lab. These workshops have all been held previously in neighbouring Nairobi. They offer more advanced training and include a production and production designer’s class on top scriptwriting, directing, editing, sound and camera classes. The films that the screenwriters submit for the workshop is what the other classes work with in completing short films. These films are shown during the wrap party at the end of the workshop.
None of this hard work goes unrewarded. The Amakula International Film Festival in Kampala showcases films from around Uganda submitted by Ugandan artists. This festival runs from September through to December and it shows the selected films across the country in the different regions.
Ugawood may not be as big as Nollywood, Bollywood or Hollywood but it has made a name for itself and is growing by the day.