In search of African films
user of film library at Amakula Kampala
I am an assistant lecturer in the department of language education, school of education, and I’m lecturing in literature, English language studies and communication skills [at [http://www.mak.ac.ug/ Makerere University]].
I’ve been part of Amakula since their inception. I’m not really a staff member, but once in a while I engage in their activities. I came to be part of their activities because of my research project on African film. Before they came into the picture, I was looking left, right and centre for African films to use for my research project. The film industry in Uganda is relatively virgin, it is coming up now, but for a long time it’s really been almost non-existent. So I was looking around for which films I could use for Uganda, and there was hardly any good feature film which could fall into that category I wanted to research on. So actually I made a trip to Nairobi because Kenya was a little bit more sophisticated in that area. I came across a director called Albert Wandago, who is the director of Alwan Films in Kenya. Somehow he managed to get me a few copies of some African films, mostly of Kenyan films. But I needed to get a wider scope, really, so basically I needed to look around more and more.
It was really difficult for the project to take off, but fortunately around the same time Amakula popped around. They started the film festival, I think, in 2004, if I remember that was their first launch of the Amakula Kampala film festival. I attended, and even took part in a workshop on single-shot cinema and had a go at directing, actually, as well as acting and shooting at the same time, using that mode. That was really fascinating.
After that I kept in touch with Alwan Films and, because of my interest in film, I became their country representative in Uganda. We launched one of their feature films called ‘Naliaka is going’, and I was in charge of organizing everything. We had it at the National Theatre for about a week.
I kept in touch with Amakula because I would connect Alwan films with Amakula’s activities, because they had the festivals and Alwan would always submit short films, feature films and so on to be shown during the festival.
The most significant change I experienced was that it was so difficult for me to come across the films I wanted, but the continuous showcasing of various films from the rest of the world and most of Africa especially at Amakula’s Festival opened my eyes to see how much was actually out there, which wasn’t the case before. Here we hardly had any libraries with African films and so on, except for the Alliance Française, because that is the other source of films, where I used to come and see what they had. However most of the time they had films from Western Africa, which were biased towards French culture, being the Alliance Française a French cultural centre.
Thanks to Amakula I got to see more and more, and that widened my scope, up to the point that last year I was finally able to select which films I could actually use for the analysis, because I wanted to specifically investigate imaging of Africa, [how] African culture [is depicted] in contemporary film, by specifically looking at both the African directed and the non-African directed films, to see whether there was a difference. Of course that comparison was really hard, it was hard to get films with the same line of thought, so that you could then analyse them in terms of how they were directed and the various film aspects. But thanks to Amakula I must say that the opportunity was bigger, and through their library I was able to get the films, borrow them, sign them out and return them, take them home, analyse them, then bring them back.
That was really fascinating, and maybe in another way, [created a change] not just [for] me but I think [for] Makerere University as well as an institution. I must say I was the first person to research African film, or even film, in the literature department [at Makerere University], and my department was very excited about it. They have now introduced the subject as a fully-fledged course unit, and more people have continued to research in film. Since then they have actively been involved in filmmaking, film directing, and in Amakula’s workshops.
Now when Amakula organizes workshops I usually attend, and sometimes we have a few disseminations, we talk about our own feelings, what we’ve discovered through our research, also in seminars. I’m writing my dissertation now so I’m hoping it will be available for people to refer to. Hopefully soon it can be out and then it can be a reference point for people who are in that field.