Review of The 2024 Uganda Film Festival (UFF)

Yesterday’s Uganda Film Festival (UFF) by UCC was one of the best editions they have held over the years. And I’m not speaking about the films, the quality of this year’s edition was shockingly low. Many of them seemed incomplete while there were other films that looked like pilots of TV series.

So when we say it’s the best edition in a long time, it’s mainly about the production of the whole thing. For the first time, it felt like the award show was produced as opposed to simply plugging us into a location, only to start inviting friends and acquaintances to praise their amazing works in the guise of giving out awards.

This year, much as many politicians were given a chance to show up and tell us their doors are open for filmmakers – as always, his time it wasn’t all about them. You had some actors and directors handing out awards.

This year, UCC seemed to stand up to the other awards that carry themselves in an iconic way with both their production and presentation.

The MCs of the night were, for instance, chosen by filmmakers. Remember that Nkakalunyi speech in 2022, then we want more! During that speech, Nkakalunyi wondered why a film award show didn’t have actors as hosts. The show had been hosted by KFM’s Faiza and Peter Igaga who were in the background watching the boy child go on and on. So, this year during a meeting with nominees, someone re-echored the need for filmmakers to host their big night. (It’s surprising that they brought this up when last years hosts were Malaika and Gaetano). Anyway, during that meeting, Uncle Mo was suggested and it seems the rest is history.

Uncle Mo had a brilliant opening of the show with that one sentence; “For the lovers of Prestige, can I get a bounce,” cue in Jemimah Sanyu’ Money, which is the theme song of Prestige, he went on to the theme song of Damalie and Sanyu….. Unfortunately, that was all, for the rest of the night, both Deedan and Uncle Mo were reduced to announcers…This next award. They seemed a bit limited that they had to smuggle in jokes often.

Besides all that, this edition didn’t have lots of fancy sponsors, there was no MultiChoice, MTN, Stanbic Bank, Airtel, Roke Telecom, Star Times or local TVs. Neither was UBL or NBL (we bought our own booze) Which means sponsors assuring filmmakers that local content is what they breathe were few.

The absence of sponsors also led to a decrease in the number of journalists at the event. You know those years, every sponsor would literally invite their own journalists. In fact, one thing I noticed is that MultiChoice has had its goodwill implanted on the film industry that even when they were not sponsors, their brand was mentioned more times than they may remember.

From Doreen Mirembe thanking them twice in her speeches, to Brian Mulondo screaming that Season 2 of Damalie is coming as the team from the show was accepting an award, or Uncle Mo casually talking about the premiere of Crossroads in his presentation. You noticed how association can go a long way in saving you PR money at times. I mean, if you did a head count, it’s easy to imagine 90% of the filmmakers and journalists in the house have worked on a MultiChoice thingie. You can’t beat that.

Overall, last night’s award show was a modest one by UCC, there were no fancy corporate gifts and tents. Remember those days when one won and they would receive a Startimes decoder, DSTV decoder, like an Airtel SIM card and Mifi of MTN.

There were no fancy performances between breaks. In fact, there only one at the end with Vinka’s CD and her dancing self.

But all that said, it was one edition where UCC as organisers pulled their socks and the filmmakers dragged their feet. Every filmmaker with a film in this festival, for some reason, made a better film before. Save for those who were making their debuts.

It felt like if we rolled the years back to 2019, It’s possible most of the films in this festival would have failed to find a spot on the nomination list.

That’s sad.

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Written by Kaggwa Andrew (1)

Ugandan Arts and Culture Journalist. Film and theatre enthusiast. Photojournalist.

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