Saturday, December 17, 2011

They exist because I exist

The title of this piece is taken from, a poem entitled Ode to Envy by Pablo Neruda. Day 2 at theAmakula Kampala Cinema Caravan Festival found this viewer in insular mood and as result the three films mentioned hereafter, focus on individual performances that caught the eye. Also considering that today is the anniversary of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian trader, is self immolation that sparked the Arab spring, according to the news media's narrative; the ego is especially prominent at the moment, bear with I.

Ernest Okeyo from Kenya stand up, your short film, Istanbul is a mustard seed. The story revolves around a young man who happens to be a fan of Liverpool FC but also an individual whose choices and actions have hurt his family in more ways than one. Be warned this film has a happy ending and is predictable which is inevitable since a key part of the narrative is based on past events, namely Liverpool FC's memorable triumph in Istanbul, 2005. However, it is still moving and well paced by the writer/director, Ernest Okeyo and I am not just saying that because I am fan of the said football club.

Individual choices are also at the root of Saleh Haroun's offering entitled,A Screaming Man set in present day Chad at a time of insurrection. This film is characterized by  powerful individual performances especially from Youssouf Djaoro the lead character who decides to give up his only son to the war effort against the rebels. Prior to this the son takes the father's job as a pool cleaner at a luxury hotel and as a consequence of these events the happy family is broken.

I want them to know
I cannot wire my mouth shut
so they can write poetry in my place
 Pablo Neruda, Ode to Envy

The tension between the individual and the family are also played out in Anusha Rizvi's, Peepli. A tragic comedy set in present day India about a farmer whose land has been repossessed by the bank over his failure to repay a loan of 100,000 rupees. Desperate,he hears of a government scheme that offers 100,000 rupees to the family of any farmer who commits suicide because of indebtedness and so he decides to commit suicide within earshot of a journalist who runs with the story, setting off a series of events that reveal the poverty and despair of India's farmers as well as the depravity of the political system aided and abated by the news media motivated, as both these institutions are, by self interest. This is Bollywood without the bright colours and fanfare, like you have never seen. Probably the best I have seen in a minute.
But don't take my word for it, come on down to the UNCC and see for yourself.

A Prophet With Honour

A Prophet With Honour

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Has History been kind to African cinema

 The Amakula Kampala Cinema Caravan Festival is many things, on at the National Theatre, a fixture on the Kampala film and social scene, not well publicized, among other things. But over the years, I have been to the last four mind; it can’t be faulted on its programming. Its strength and indeed the main draw for me are the rich and varied films on show that I would otherwise never have seen. The least you expect from any self respecting film festival is to be entertained, educated and even offended by the selection of films on show.
This brings me to this year’s event which runs from the 14th to the 17th December at the National Theatre. On this year’s program on day one, is a silent film by Harold.M Shaw entitled The Overlanders made in 1916.Like anyone whose been to this festival knows, the evening screenings offer rather eclectic fare. This choice by the festival directors intrigued me and by the time I got to my seat on the upper deck of the theatre I was ready to be regaled. Percussion Discussion provided the live score of traditional Kiganda drums, engaalabi, shakers and vocals. The presentation on their part was flawless in that in no way was it intrusive and the viewer is left undistracted to watch this film.
The film is about the Great Trek of the Boers that is the ancestors of the Afrikaners in South Africa. These people traversed South Africa looking for a place to settle, dispossessing the indigenous natives along the way. This film focuses on the battle of Blood River which took place on December, 16, 1838, a day that lives on in infamy, to borrow a phrase from FDR. I think the festival directors would have been better served showing this on day 3, December 16, it has symmetry to it. The Boers equipped with gun powder and rifles massacred Dingaan the Zulu King’s warriors and it is this event that is celebrated in the film.
The filmmaker to be fair cast Africans in their roles rather than whites with painted faces that was the staple of minstrel shows and Hollywood at the time. That is the most I can say for the film the rest is painful to watch, the African stereotypes of gullibility, servility are there for all to see. It is humiliating to watch the proud Zulu warrior, Sobhuza portrayed as a man who owes his conscience to Christianity as taught to him by a white missionary. Any student of South African history will cringe at the premise of this film.
It is also worth mentioning that most nations have exploited each other before or since, the Zulu empire itself was built on exploiting among others the Khoesan who are the South African aboriginals, so called bush men. Therefore my issue with the film is not only personal moral reservations about lionizing exploitation but also portraying the victims of exploitation as better off for it, even complicit in their own downpression and the perpetrators as noble in their intentions that just happen to involve  plunder.
The duplicity of the  white settlers in manipulating the Zulu’s to turn against each other best seen when Sobhuza assassinates  King Dingaan, because the latter killed  Sobhuza’s baas(South African slang for slave owner); Piet Retief, is glossed over and the weak mindedness of King Dingaan or his lack of intellectual self defence played up.
Film some say has no responsibility other than to entertain but film has been used by among others Leni Reifenstahl, a Nazi apologist, even our own government, to manufacture consent, propaganda which history itself is guilty of.
 Bantu education springs to mind, South African youths were taught self loathing( a government policy mind you) that is at the root at many of the problems in the black community, such as xenophobia, the very problems that the late great, Steve Bantu Biko dared to confront through his Black Consciencessness Movement.
All in all it’s a film worth seeing if only to recognize the propaganda value of film. Be that as it may I was entertained by Percussion Discussion’s live score, clearly offended and yet I can’t say my understanding of South African history is enhanced at all by this film. Don’t take my word for it though, come on down to the UNCC (National Theatre) and see for yourself.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Love scenes for African cinema

This is a meditation not so much on social mores and all things niggy, it's an observation from one cinema fiend to another, when was the last time you saw a memorable love scene in an African film and I use the description African film to mean a film set in Africa and features a predominantly African cast retelling a story that espouses African beliefs and world views the latter and former are plural in keeping with a society that is polytheistic and multicultural?

I ask this question because I recently watched Viva Riva and was haunted by it's imagery and depiction of life in modern day Kinshasa although it could be set in any teeming sprawling urban metropolis on this continent. Before I saw this film i could not think of a memorable love scene in African cinema. I wonder why that is? Well I guess it has something to do with the fact we are in the main coy when talking about sex in Uganda it took the HIV Aids pandemic to change attitudes about sex when it became clear that ignorance about sex in general and the disease (its still called the disease)in particular was the main cause of death and still is.

Still that does little to explain how unprepared I was for what has been described as
gratuitous sex and violence by some critics not including Hon. Nsaba Buturo ex minister of ethics renowned for his anally retentive disposition. The thing about love scenes in cinema and what marks them from soft porn is the poetry, what the audience doesn't see or hear,think Last Tango in Paris. The camera is not intrusive in a bid to empathize with the passions of the characters.Supafly and in particular the love scenes with Miss Fraiser and Supafly himself come to mind. What happens in Viva Riva is the director oscillates between the sensual leave as much to the imagination as possible school emulating European tastes and detached attitudes to sex like in Last Tango in Paris, as well as the raunchy leave a little less to the imagination of 1970s African American cinema as seen in Supafly. For the first encounter between Riva the lead character and his muse, the director leaves little to the imagination imposing on the viewer a vision that is at once arresting and immediate causing one to ask whether they were acting,suspending disbelief in this case is as easily said as it's done, the director shows you how our protagonists passions boil over as opposed to letting you imagine their rapture and the mood changes for the next encounter between the same protagonists by now better acquainted and with more time to spend together, the director reverts to a vision that is coy, as the song says the first cut is the deepest. This treatment adds variety that is... aesthetically pleasing but also helps the plot along.

I can't speak of variety without mentioning the first love scene in the film, it's a lesbian love scene another first for African cinema as far as I know and I stand corrected.It is handled coyly and fans the flames sparked by the chemistry between the two protagonists.This scene brought to mind the chemistry between Jennifer Tilley and Gina Gershon in Bound. It is a rare feat this Viva Riva, a vision to light your way through times of load shedding but.... don't take my word for it, go see it yourself.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

theLINK_WWFUG: No time for pleasantrees

theLINK_WWFUG: No time for pleasantrees: This is written with a sense of urgency that the event demands. The WWF vision of 100% renewable energy is immediate and worthwhile , accord...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thank Yous

2 little words Pablo Neruda is no joke...On behalf of the ZUKA family tree I would like to thank every body who made it to the festival for the 2nd annual. It was beautiful, in no specific order, if you recognise your name stand up...The 2nd Annual ZUKA Festival Honours Roll....(drum roll please..cannon fire, more like) VEFJo, Africa Visuals, KUFTV, UCU Film Club, the filmmakers, film lovers, the Sharing Youth Center management and the Sharing youth themselves....peace...pix out soon

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Deadline has passed for all film submissions

This is to officially declare that the deadline for this year's film submissions for the 2nd Annual Zuka Students' Film Festival has passed.

All successfully shortlisted films will be shortlisted and the respective film makers will be contacted and informed upon their success.

To all the film makers who submitted your films, thank to for submitting your films.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


 The 1st Annual Zuka Students’ Film Festival 2010, was the first ever students’ film showcase in Uganda. This year, we are delighted to present to you the 2nd Annual ZSFF, a young artistic display dedicated to lifting the profile of young film makers through exhibiting their creative works at this student centered film festival.

The festival intends to attract thousands of attendees for three exciting days of screenings, workshops, exhibitions and galas in a merger of creativity, freshness and style.

We now invite you to submit new independent films and videos of all genres by and/or about students from across the East African region. Non student films are welcome too; however, note that only students’ projects are eligible to compete for the cash prize for the best students’ film category.

The Zuka Students’ Film Festival is the single largest annual showcase of young film makers projects in Uganda dedicated but not restricted to students.

Submission is FREE!!

DEADLINE:                          JULY 22nd 2011

FINAL DEADLINE:            AUGUST 1, 2011 
                                  (When at least the form was already submitted by 22nd July)

Send all submissions to:

Denis Onen,
Programmes Director,
Zuka Students’ Film Festival,
P.O Box 35000,
Kampala, Uganda.

Applicants whose work has been selected will be notified by mid-August 2011. The programme line-up will then be officially announced at a festival press launch. The 2011 Zuka Students Film Festival will take place between Friday 23rd and 25th September.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The 2nd Annual Zuka Students' Film Festival

It is yet again that time of the year when we let down the curtains as we unveil the 2nd Annual Zuka Students' Film Festival 2011. The dates have already been set for 23rd to 25th September. The programme is going to be even more exciting than last year, the films are coming from across the region, the participant have increased, and the winning film this time will get a reward. I can not wait to let you know how much the winner will be getting.

Lookout for sneak-peaks into what the festival is going to focus on and what exciting things you will have an opportunity to participate in.

The dates for submission of films will be announced in a week's time. Lookout for the details and criteria on how you can submit your film.

Otherwise, sit tight and hold your breathe for a "Fast and Furious" ride.

Zuka Team!