The first ever Euro-African Kampala film festival opened doors last Wednesday at Theatre La Bonita.
The one-week festival that climaxes this Wednesday was organized by the European Union and its member states with the aim of strengthening cultural relations with Uganda. By 5pm, different film lovers had already thronged the theatre to kick off the festivities.
The organisers hosted their guests to a lavish celebration that included lots of free drinks. Another cocktail was organized by British Council the following day in celebration of the screening of the first United Kingdom film, Searching for Sugar Man.
Before filming started, there was a brief press conference in which at least 12 ambassadors discussed their respective countries’ plans for Ugandan cinema.
“We [EU] hope to use this platform to facilitate intercultural exchanges between Africa and Europe by screening the best films from either continent. We are particularly looking at future collaborations between Ugandan and European artistes,” the EU ambassador to Uganda, Kristian Schmidt, told journalists.
Schmidt explained that there was an urgent need to tap into European filmmakers’ growing interest in African stories and generally African cinema. If well-harnessed, he said, it could lead to the two continents emerging as the new frontier in word cinema.
The festival comes at a time when local cinema is taking major strides to keep up with the big boys of African cinema like Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. One of the local movies which screened, The Ugandan, was voted among the top ten African films of 2013 by entertainment.howzit.msn.com.
Sharpe Ssewali’s short film Is This Love, which has won him critical acclaim across the continent, also screened.
“This festival is a starting point to a long partnership that will involve exchange of knowledge, capacity building and increased funding for Ugandan filmmakers,” said Maisha’s programmes director, Fibby Kioria.
EU will this year fund Maisha’s four screen writing labs and hopes to continue working with other local cultural institutions and film authorities to boost the emerging industry. Screening kicked off with the thirteen-minute Ugandan/Danish collaboration, Walk With Me, a movie about five-year-old Melanie, forced out of daydreaming to discover death.
Then it was time for the 2010 Academy-award-winning Danish hit, In a Better World. The film is about Anton, a doctor who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. In these two very different worlds, he and his family are faced with conflicts that lead them to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness.
Every day, more than six movies are showing and these include at least three short films locally produced by the Maisha lab. A total of 45 outstanding movies from Europe and Africa are lined up for the seven-day course.
Today, they will be showing Fred Kigozi’s Rough Boys, a story about a mentally-disturbed boy; The Children’s Republic from Guinea Bissau and Fatih Akin’s Soul Kitchen.
The festival runs till Wednesday, when it will screen Joel Karekezi’s Imbabazi: The Pardon, a movie about two best friends that find themselves on opposite sides in the wake of the 1994 Rwanda genocide.