Four promising local film projects that might otherwise have remained on paper now stand a good chance of coming to life, thanks to Government financial support to the tune of Shs 503 million.
The filmmakers were all smiles as they received cheques from the Acting Executive Director of Uganda Communications Commission, Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo, at the UCC head office in Bugolobi on Wednesday.
Under the theme, “Promoting Culture and Tourism”, the funding is the first tranche to be given out to local filmmakers through the Content Development Support Programme, an initiative of the Commission that aims to uplift the audio-visual industry in Uganda.
Selected from 61 applicants, the inaugural beneficiaries are Rachael’s Old King (Mark Byarugaba), Karamojong (Eleanor Nabwiso), Unheard (Polly Kamukama and Joseph Ssebagala), and Borders (Ampire Daphne Rubaramira).
The winners were selected by an independent jury of eminent persons led by Sr Dominic Dipio, a literature and film professor from Makerere University.
Other judges were Ms Adong Judith, a film expert working with Silent Voices Uganda; Ms Claire Mugabi, Marketing Manager Uganda Tourism Board (UTB); Mr Philip Luswata, film expert and lecturer in the Department of Performing Arts and Film, Makerere University; and Mr Collin Asiimwe, Head of Marketing MultiChoice Uganda.
At the award ceremony, the Acting Executive Director congratulated the winners, thanked all participants and reiterated the Commission’s commitment to enable, facilitate and promote the development of the audio-visual industry in Uganda.
Outlining some of the Commission’s interventions in the sector, Ms Kaggwa Sewankambo said UCC had introduced local content quotas for television stations in Uganda, having realised that foreign content was dominant.
This intervention followed a study conducted in 2014 that found that foreign content accounted for up to 70% of programmes on most television stations.
“To date, this intervention has boosted the audio-visual sector, with local content increasing from 30.4% to 69.9% on Free to Air channels,” the Executive Director said, challenging the industry to work towards getting Ugandan movies to feature on global platforms such as Netflix.
She explained that pay Television content has also shifted fundamentally, with special channels dedicated to Ugandan content coming on board through DSTV and StarTimes, among others.
The Executive Director also noted that UCC engages in capacity building programmes to improve the quality of local content and has trained over 1,000 content creators in Acting, Cinematography, Editing, Scriptwriting, Sound, and Lighting.
Perhaps the most visible initiative is the Uganda Film Festival, which has transformed local content through training and exposure, and in the process, attracted strategic partnerships with Uganda Tourism Board, Hollywood Film Festival, MultiChoice Uganda, MTN Uganda, Cannes Film Festival, and Stanbic Bank.
As a result of these interventions, Ugandan film has gained recognition locally and internationally, showcasing at the Cannes Film Festival in France, Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in the United States, and in Nigeria, Zanzibar, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa, among other film markets.
Through the latest Content Development Support Programme initiative, the Commission hopes to expand employment opportunities, increase demand and competitiveness for Ugandan content, grow audiences, and position Uganda as a filming destination.
Earlier, Sr Dipio expressed gratitude for the trust that UCC placed in her team. “This is one thing that, in our belief, will take our industry higher than it has been,” she said, thanking the Government, through UCC, for the initiative.
Sr Dipio congratulated the winners and urged them to remain focused on their projects, saying as judges, they have a vested interest in the various projects’ success. “We ask you to keep your hands on the plough up to when we can celebrate your harvest,” she said.
Sr Dipio also thanked her team of judges, whom she said had gone an extra mile to get the job done. “In our judgement, we think we did a thorough job,” she said, adding that her team expects fascinating films to come out of this initiative.