The Ugandan Film Award Circus

“Where the paparazzi cameras get our best performance!” – Clive Nshiime

In the creative streets of Kampala, Uganda, the glitz, and glamour of film awards paint a stark contrast to the harsh realities of the industry they celebrate. In a film-scape where audiences seem ignorant of its existence, industry pay is scarce or almost akin to slavery, and license fees lack transparency, the allure of the red carpet often outshines the performances on the silver screen. Yet, both the silver screen and the red carpet both falsely represent the production trenches of the industry. It begs the question, who are we performing for? Who are the Joneses that we are trying to keep up with because it certainly can’t be Hollywood cinema that has been in development since 1910?

Granted, the red carpet is magnetic. It can feel like a worthwhile reward for the months of arduous call-times and editing hours. Not to mention, it’s an answer to the friends and family pestering questions of: “What’s to show for all your work?”, “Where are the interviews?”, “Where’s the paycheck?” or “Why aren’t you famous yet on Netflix?”. The red carpet is your chance to showcase and perform what the well-wishers desire for you. However, on the flip side, the spectacle of the red or black carpet sees individuals hobnobbing with their supposed adversaries, all while whispers of animosity and jealousy circulate through the clandestine corridors of WhatsApp groups. The gatekeeper’s jealousy guard industry entrances against the new threatening talent while strategic thinkers quickly navigate ways into “the room where it happens” even if it means a momentary loss of dignity. It’s a paradoxical display where camaraderie masks the underlying tensions simmering beneath the surface.

The question is, why all this drama for such a small industry that hasn’t even scratched the surface of international recognition? Where is the significance of the titles “famous” or “celebrity” if, at the end of the day, artists are borrowing their outfits, going home using public transport and having to call their friends to pay rent at the end of the month? It is wonderful to receive an award for work well done but perhaps we’re projecting glamour that is unnecessary and representative of a different culture.

It’s easy to tell through the tantalising outfits, makeup, and deco that, as a culture, we are still grappling with a complex legacy of colonialism. We practice “othering,” by perpetuating a narrative that often fails to reflect the richness and diversity of our own culture. Perhaps, comparably, therefore, our films don’t scrape the international surface, we are unidentifiable as a culture. Has our culture been so diluted? Consequently, despite its small size, the industry struggles to break free from the shackles of individualism, mirroring the hierarchical structures imposed during colonial rule.

The cast and crew of Vanilla clad in African attire and their Premiere at Yenze Theatre Conservatoire.

Nevertheless, amidst the chaos, sabotage, backbiting and discord, there remains hope for a more equitable, culturally representative, and inclusive film industry. Transparency and accountability become key change factors. The streamlining of systems to copyrighting, licensing fees, location fees, award selection processes through utilization of one online governing platform can help any newcomer thrive in the industry without having to rely on social capital. Indubitably, by fostering a culture of openness, the industry can begin to dismantle the individualistic colonial systems that have long plagued its progress.

Moreover, central to the success of the Ugandan film industry is the cultivation of a supportive local audience. Without recognition and appreciation on home turf, it becomes exponentially harder for Ugandan filmmakers to gain traction abroad. It is monotonous to attend an awards ceremony or film screening, or film press event and the same faces appear to all events. We all have each other’s contact. Is the film industry simply a small backyard club where we pat ourselves on the back? Accessibility is key – if audiences cannot easily access Ugandan films and work, how are they to know how to support the industry?

Conversely, If the content that audiences are exposed to is majority western, then of course they are going to give illogical requirements and criticism on the hard work filmmakers are creating. The audience must learn to appreciate industry growth and promote it. The Ugandan film industry has more to offer than overly curated, plastic, cliché, TV Serie dramas. It is sad that when filmmakers finally hit gold on Netflix or Hollywood, that’s when audiences remember that they went to school with that filmmaker and post the picture on Instagram.

This is where the role of the executive producer becomes crucial. Executive producers not only provide financial backing but also wield significant influence in shaping the publicity and distribution strategies for a film. By leveraging partnerships across various sectors – including government agencies, cultural institutions, and grassroots organizations – the industry can foster growth and expand its reach. Unfortunately, potential executive producers are completely unaware of this opportunity or even the existence of the industry. Ultimately, the growth of the Ugandan film industry hinges on its ability to embrace its unique identity while forging new paths forward with accessibility and promotion.

Despite its challenges, Uganda boasts a wealth of cinematic talent and creativity. From the groundbreaking work of filmmakers like Raymond Malinga with “Herderboy” to the international acclaim garnered by films such as “Queen of Katwe,” the country’s film industry continues to make its mark on the global stage. Producers like, Yenze Theatre Conservatoire, Stone Age Picture, Bad Mama Jama Films, and Baby Plantain Productions are a few of the storytellers with unique taste to storytelling that are shining in the outskirts. Perhaps, if we ensure that audiences can easily access all this rich content and promote it, then, the industry can unlock its full potential and establish itself as a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.

Ugandan filmmakers, live within your means! The performances you do on the screens should triumph above the performances for the paparazzi and public. You’ll arrive eventually.

Featured Image: My Fair Lady Musical Production | Horse Race Scene | Captured by AKA Diamond.

This post was created with our nice and easy submission form. Create your post!


Written by Yenze Theatre Conservatoire (1)

A performing arts enterprise enabling artists to thrive through Film/theatre productions, trainings and management.

What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#RolexInIndia Part 1: Entebbe – Mumbai – Goa [Assisted by ChatGPT Voice Chat Bot]