The Struggles of Uganda Filmmakers

As the film fraternity prepares for the fourth edition of the Ugandan Film Festival (UFF) later in the year, local filmmakers still have to grapple with lack of funding and equipment, a poor distribution network, lack of a government film commission and an affordable film school to support the budding sector. By Bamuturaki Musinguzi

Filmmaker Evelyn Cindy Magara, a lecturer in film studies at Makekere University and a director/screen writer at Nyati Motion Pictures, said film production activities in the country do not qualify to be called an industry.

"If for any reason we call it so, it has to be qualified. Film making in Uganda is in its infancy. It still has to go through all the development stages. So far, we are still at the crawling stage," she told The EastAfrican.

According to Ms Magara, Uganda's nascent film industry faces a number of serious challenges. First, there is no reliable film school. The nearest one is in Nairobi and it is very expensive. Some local institutions exist that teach professional film production, but the few graduates have trouble finding work.

"This is because film does not pay. Television stations in the country want to show local productions for free. The only television network that pays is DSTV. But even with the kind of money DSTV pays, a local filmmaker will still struggle to make a simple short film," Magara added.

Despite the growth in local television stations and the cinema business in the past 10 years, local film producers are still struggling to produce quality works and their full feature pictures rarely break into the mainstream industry to grace the silver screen.

Foreign content

From nine television stations in 2005, whose programmes were 90 per cent foreign content and only 10 per cent locally sourced, there are now 40 operational broadcast companies according to data compiled by industry regulator Uganda Communication Commission (UCC).

A UCC monitoring survey released last September shows that local content does not get enough airplay. In the first and second quarter of 2015, the state-owned public broadcaster Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) led the local content charts at 46.6 per cent, way below the broadcasting policy requirement that local TV stations air 70 per cent homegrown content and 30 per cent foreign.

In the cinema business also, the numbers are heavily tilted towards foreign content.

"The quality is still lacking" said Lorraine Oguttu of the locally produced content. Ms Oguttu is in charge of public relations at Cinemax, one of four upmarket cinema halls in Kampala.

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