Last Thursday, Cineplex cinema at Oasis mall premiered Man On The Ground, a xenophobia-riot-inspired film by Nigerian director, Akin Omotoso.
The invite-only screening sponsored by NTV wasn’t your ordinary occasion. The film’s lead actor, Fabian Lojede, was around, but above all, this was the first time an African film was showing here. The film was attended by people that have for long yearned for something different.
In February, this newspaper carried an article complaining about the continued sidelining of African films in Uganda’s cinemas. And it looks like time is now and Man On The Ground didn’t disappoint. It was a breath of fresh air to the cinema that has previously gone through 90 minutes of full-length films with barely ten people.
In fact, Gerald Kato, one of the film lovers who attended the premier, noted that cinema is literally dead. In his view, cinema has got to do a lot more to impress, considering that they are all in the city centre and showing the same content.
“To make matters worse, pirates at times get the films to Majestic plaza before they even premiere in cinema,” he said.
It is actually upon that background that he competed in an NTV quiz to win a ticket to the premiere.
Lojede and Nabwiso:
“I saw a preview of the movie when Lojede was nominated alongside Nabwiso in the AMVCA [Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice awards], but then never got a chance to watch it because there was nowhere to get it.”
According to Cineplex’s proprietor, Marion Etyang Busingye, the biggest problem with African films is distribution, arguing that most producers prefer to sell their movies to televisions than cinemas. Busingye says there are few distributors pushing African films since they are afraid they could make losses.
To make matters worse, Busingye notes that some African filmmakers only provide rights for films to screen in a few African countries such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.
“Nairobi Half Life was shown in two Kenyan cinemas and countries like Uganda didn’t even have rights to show it,” she says.
She notes that it all comes down to how film producers work well with their distributors, who get the films to the cinemas. She, however, notes that it’s good that some filmmakers have started taking the right measures to get their films to the cinemas before they go on television.
“At the beginning of the year, we screened a number of Ugandan and Kenyan films,” she reveals.
However, according to the organiser behind one of the Ugandan films that was screened at the cinema last year, they didn’t receive any support or waiver from the cinema.
“We were asked to pay Shs 1.5 million, which is about Shs 15,000 per seat,” says the organiser, who preferred anonymity.
He adds that it was unfair because the cinema barely gets filled even when Hollywood films are showing. The filmmaker argues that the only African films shown in Ugandan cinemas are usually sponsored by embassies or companies.
“Those people can’t show an African film out of merit,” he says.
NTV’s Head of Marketing Herbert Odonkie says they are committed to seeing African content getting consumed even in high-end cinemas.
“This is not the last time we are sponsoring an African production we shall continue to support you,” he said.
In his brief, Lojede said African cinema needs government support to thrive. However, it’s sad that only South Africa is willing to push its arts.
“In Nigeria, the industry can survive because Nigerians have an extensive demand for locally-produced content,” Lojede says.
In the film, Lojede appears alongside internationally- acclaimed Hollywood African actor Hakeem Kae Kazim, who received his first lead role despite his long CV of internationally- acclaimed films.
“We called on Hakeem because we thought if Hollywood is not giving us lead roles, we should create them ourselves,” Lojede says.
And maybe Ugandan cinema should adopt the same mentality since America or Europe will never give our films a platform we should create our own without excuses.
Source : The Observer