The Uganda Film Festival that is organized by the Uganda Communications Commission is the best the local film industry had gotten to as far as national recognition is concerned.
Yet, for the people that produced the films to be consumed by a public, they felt like the festival was just doing it as an event, they have to tick off their yearly menu.
The awards that happened at the end of last week at Serena Hotel marked the end of their fourth edition and in the minds of many film makers; the end of film as far as the commission is concerned.
For the past three years, film makers have been decrying the dire situations the festival is organized that paint a beautiful picture on the front yet leaves them frustrated in the end.
For instance, since inception, the festival has failed to create the desired awareness for itself and the industry at large, making matters worse, local films are still finding it hard to make it to different cinema screens across the country.
Yet, every year when they announce the festival, they announce a schedule of films to screen in the different cinemas like Cinema Magic in Nalya, Century Cinemax along Acacia Road, Cinemax 5D in Makerere and of recent Nu Max Cinema in Entebbe.
Much as the screening is appreciated, the timing is absolutely ridiculous, for instance, throughout the week they had films show at cinemas, it was at all the lowest of all cinema traffics – Wako, the film that eventually won the Best Sound award screened at Century Cinemax to an audience of one person, and this was the same case with many films that showed in other spaces.
Aaron Zziwa, the director of Wako, spent the best part of the year promoting his film in Masaka, Gulu, Jinja and different parts of Kampala, he notes that the people that watch Ugandan films are the low class people; “Many of them have never been to a plush cinema!”
Thus, he feels that the move to screen local films in only high end cinemas worked against them and making matters worse, the films screened between 10am – 4pm, the actual times the purported audience is rather engaged.
“See, even film makers missed their own screenings, it became hard to even invite people to watch the films considering a fact that they are usually working at such times,” argued one film maker.
Other stakeholders though argued that it would make sense if UCC made use of the popular local video halls since unlike the ordinary Cineplex and Cinemax, these places operate for 24 hours and above it all have the audience that a local film maker targets.
Polly Kamukama, a film critic notes that it would make much more sense if UCC worked with people that are exposed with such festival dynamics, for instance, he says that the idea of programming over 100 submitted films devalues the festival.
“If they could select only the best from the submitted films and screen those, even a film maker that has not been nominated will feel proud to add the ‘festival screening selection’ on his CV,” he says adding that having all submitted films screen removes the prestige from the initial festival leaving it only to the award night.
But not all hope is lost, much as things are not as good as film makers would want them to be, this year, the festival did improve in a number of areas, for instance, unlike last year where they opened with a performance of Sheebah Karungi, last week, like all international festivals do, they had an opening film, The Only Son by Richard Mulindwa.
They even out did themselves by going ahead to add value to accolades by putting a cash reward on each award won; many believe that the move is not going only going to increase the entries but force people to get the best of quality so as to win the cash.
However like all things, some are afraid that the cash may also devalue the entire festival more as people will only look out for the cash prize other than the festival and everything it hopes to represent or achieve.