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Saturday, November 1, 2008

UFN brings Ugandan filmakers together

Ms Joanita Bewulira - Wandera is an actress, script writer, director and Head of Communication of the Uganda Film Network (UFN). The Last King of Scotland casting director told DENNIS D. MUHUMUZA about how UFN is determined to help Uganda’s film industry.

What led to the establishment of UFN?
The UFN was launched this year in response to the absence of a well established body that could control film content in Uganda. Although there are some good productions, our society has been fed on substantial amount of substandard material that’s detrimental to our society. Secondly, we were getting a lot of international film companies coming here and exploiting Ugandans through poor pay and poor working conditions. I’m not saying that all the film companies mistreated Ugandans but in the absence of a film body our people could not be advised. A lot of movies being shot about Uganda have been taken elsewhere; for example earlier this year there was a film by a Dutch company called White Light about Joseph Kony; it was shot here in Uganda for 10 days and for two months in South Africa. Ugandans were flown down to South Africa; Ugandan cars were taken to South Africa yet all this income could have come to Uganda and jobs created. So UFN is here to bring together Ugandan film people as part of one network, to streamline a plan of action in dealings with foreign film companies and ensure that works of excellence are produced in Uganda.

You talked of the control of film content. How are you going to do that and what is acceptable content?
First of all, I would like to explain that we are not imposing ourselves on anyone; so we can only do this with our members if they agree to let us see their work. Unfortunately there isn’t really script culture in Uganda; people have ideas, shoot and improvise the dialogue. But where we are approached we’ll advise our members about lighting, sound and the content; we can’t really control things like pornography but we would strongly advise our members not to go in that direction. We’ve a strong team of directors, actors, editors and producers, so we are in a very strong position to be able to help and advise. I’m hoping we will get quality work; films that educate, inform and at the same time will entertain and build the moral fabric of society.

Ugandan obsession with Nigerian films is well known. How is UFN going to help our filmmakers supersede that?
By nurturing the enormous talent we have and using it in a comprehensive, well-driven, well-timed, well-aimed and well-produced manner and by also marketing our productions and the country’s spectacular sights like the source of the Nile, forests and winding rivers, mountain ranges and islands which could act as great scenic locations for foreign filmmakers.

Isn’t UFN promising much in the absence of a film institution and with little formal training in film making for the few Ugandans in the business?
Not really. The annual Maisha Film Lab brings in the directors and mentors from all over the world and we are encouraging our members to attend these workshops because there’s more to learn. Secondly, UFN is working jointly on a major film project that will be able to show our members and say –you want to make a selling movie –this is how to make it. We are also going out of our way to find out possible workshops; we attend as many as we can ourselves so that we can pass on information to our members.

What has been hampering the growth of Uganda’s film industry?
The red tape; many film makers have been frustrated because they are given such a hard time in getting permissions for locations and for using certain props and in shooting in certain areas and that’s something that needs to be streamlined. Also the industry does not pay, for example, filming is done only on the weekends to cut on the costs and time, otherwise in the ideal world we would be shooting for a stretch of a month or maybe more. Most films are rushed jobs because many local film makers are still struggling financially and yet they are not getting much support like the music or theatre industry. We want to reawaken the culture of watching films because we’ve got pay TV and people are glued to that but we want to revive the culture of going to cinema halls to watch films because without an audience there to watch them; no matter how many we make it’s still not going to help. In fact, we have started film shows at the National Theatre and we’ve gone a step further in establishing a Friday film night at Bat Valley theatre where only Ugandan films are shown.

--Daily Monitor, Friday, October 10, 2008