Every year, when an African film festival or award ceremony happens, a number of good productions from the continent are showcased.
However, even when many of these films are promising or even with better storylines than your ordinary candy-cotton Captain America or Iron Man, many of the presumed audience never get to watch them.
This year at the annual Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs), Uganda has scooped four nominations, thanks to Joseph Kenneth Ssebaggala’s two films: Call 112 and House Arrest. But while such movies are growing and making Uganda proud elsewhere, few Ugandans have actually watched them, let alone know that they exist.
And not just them; even big titles that have won international awards have gone unnoticed in Uganda. For instance, it’s easier to find 20 Ugandans that watched all this year’s Golden Globe-winning films than one that has watched the only African representation at the 2015 Oscars, Timbuktu, or Uganda’s 2014 God Loves Uganda, which made it to the Oscars’ shortlist but not on the nominations’ list.
It is against this background that a group of movie junkies have started the Africa Movie Night aimed at getting movies from different parts of Africa and showcasing them in the local cinemas.
Set to happen once every month, with the opening night happening at the National theatre this Tuesday, the concept aims at showcasing award- winning African films that were swept under the rug, mostly because local cinemas thought they weren’t Hollywood enough or that the audience wasn’t ready for such content.
Moses Serugo, one of the brains behind the night, says that Africans have amazing stories, with many of them striving to provide good cinematography, choreography and directing; however, few know about these films or even the existence of African film industries besides Nigeria (Nollywood) and South Africa.
This comes at a time when Hollywood is under fire over the misrepresentation of African stories either with glaring inaccuracies or the damned fake accents all African characters are given. Critics say the way African stories are told is a stereotype to the common belief by many people in the West that Africa is a country rather than a continent.
Last year, after the release of Concussion, a story about Nigerian pathologist Dr Bennet Omalu, there was a wide cry that the lead-actor Will Smith didn’t sound anything close to a Nigerian. More still, others argue that Nigeria has many tribes to generalise their speech and intonation.
With many Africans telling the same stories but getting little publicity, Serugo says that the African Movie Night is a chance to get the continent’s stories told in a way many would want to see their stories told, especially with a fact that there is more to the continent than warlords, starving children and genocides.
Making matters worse, some of these stories are poorly told. For instance, refuge victims in Hotel Rwanda were given South African names other than Rwandese ones. Beasts Of No Nation, a film based on a book, makes use of the Ghanaian language, Twi, when actually the author of the book used Nigerian dialects.
In fact, almost every time a Hollywood ‘African’ film is released, it is followed by backlash from Africans that feel offended. Yet there are so many good African films out there, but because they aren’t produced in Hollywood, they don’t receive the deserved attention.
African Movie Night organisers have already lined up for the next five months some of the films that have influenced art and society at the same time. Many have won a number of accolades such as Kenya’s political-driven Veve, xenophobia-themed Man On Ground and lovey-dovey Tell Me Sweet Something, among others.
Serugo says that African films could be the one thing that would drive people back to the cinema halls that are becoming empty each day a pirate duplicates the latest Hollywood blockbuster.