Since Matt Bish released State Research Bureau (SRB) almost ten years back, a lot has changed with the local film industry.
The Ugandan government courtesy of the Uganda Communication Commission has since started a film festival and courtesy of DSTV’s Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, Uganda has at least bagged a continental film accolade.
On Sunday, at the plush Victoria Hall in Serena Hotel, Matt premiered probably his most ambitious project yet – a celebrated cast, promising trailer, story and above it all, handing a local celebrity one of her biggest debuts.
The film starring Cinderella Sanyu alias Cindy was her very first time acting and almost the selling point as many were curious – true to her artistry, she puts up a spirited performance that made many believe that regardless of how the movie fares financially, it may have opened doors for the dancehall artiste.
Bella is a simple Cinderella story, in fact, besides meeting a prince charming, it is a mirror of many rugs to riches tales just that this particular one was sold with a musical string to it.
It tells a story of a girl that leaves the village after her impossible father (Abby Mukibi) has allegedly killed her mother during a fight – along with another child, they jump onto a track to the city whose streets they stay on until they are separated by death.
The girl soon grows up into a woman on the streets, going around asking for food and at times singing for it.
That’s almost all one gets to see in the full hour of the film and aptly the whole stuff you see in the less than two minutes well put trailer – the whole film being a music driven story with a girl in the middle of it literally becomes a myth, instead, it becomes a story of a girl that knows how to sing and surviving a cruel city.
The whole line of a girl who sings her way out of the streets is something that we don’t convincingly see, for instance, much as she ends the film turning into this amazing artiste, music wasn’t the bullet that turned her fortunes around, in fact, her tide only changes when she saves a prostitute from a serial killer.
Not the worst of turning points, though, the prostitution save was valid until the writers decided to give it almost ten minutes of our life and thus diverting a promising story – this saw Bella come from waiting at restaurant tables, partly being recruited into prostitution, seductively dancing in a bar on her very first night out, to upgrading her English and accent in a snap.
The film also fails to sell us the authenticity of Bella’s love for music; it’s true she’s an amazing singer but it feels like she just became one overnight, besides humming to a riddle in an early scene, there’s nothing peculiar in her character suggesting music leaves with her or she leaving with it for survival.
But regardless of how the story kept wondering through themes, the constant things about Bella was a fact that Cindy was amazing, she managed to make the audience forget her dancehall self to appreciate and buy the emotions of Bella.
“I received the script almost a year before we started shooting, I read it and understood it,” she had earlier told tsupug.com.
Being a first time actor, she had embarked on acting classed which she says exposed her to many things she didn’t know about the art; “but I was still intimidated by the cast, these were all professionals and yet I was supposed to be the lead.”
Bella’s strongest point is brilliant photography that was executed by actor turned photographer Pryce Joel Okuyo and of course the strong cast that features Simon Kalema, Stella Nantumbwe, Roger Mugisha and Judith Heard among others.