When The Observer ran a story Ugandan films suffer stillbirth about the state of Uganda’s film industry, comedian Isaaq Kuddzu, better known as Sober in The Hostel series, expressed his dissatisfaction on Facebook at the article’s perception of local films – particularly the naming.
Kuddzu’s unhappiness stemmed from the industry’s popular nickname, Kinna-Uganda or Kinna-U, prompting an online debate. According to the Fun Factory funnyman, it is not appropriate to refer to the industry as ‘Kinna-Uganda’ because it localizes local films, hence limiting their ability to break onto the international market and compete with well-established industries.
“Look at international films versus Kinna-Uganda, we are supposed to believe in what we do if we want to match the world levels. Viva Riva is an excellent film that was shot in the Congo; why is it not called Kinna-Congo? Kinna-Uganda does not do it for me,” Kuddzu later told The Observer.
Other stakeholders in the industry have come out to contest the name Kinna-Uganda. For starters, the Ugandan film industry has not been around for long. Many critics cite Ashraf Semwogerere’s 2005 feature, Feelings Struggle as the first true Ugandan film. However, a few sketchy undocumented productions had already found their way onto the market.
Feelings Struggle came during a period when Nigerian movies were at their peak throughout the continent. Partly because of the Nigerians’ shrewd and advanced marketing, a bulk of their films had already found a safe haven in Uganda. Mesmerized by the films’ exaggerated portrayal of witchcraft and ethnicity, Ugandan viewers nicknamed them ‘Ki-Nigeria’. The prefix ‘Ki’ in Luganda is usually used to show affection to a subject or person. However, the same prefix can portray intense dislike.
Filmmaker Matt Bish (Battle of the Souls and State Research Bureau (SRB) also detests the name ‘Kinna-Uganda’.
“‘Ki is what makes anything after it cheap or bogus,” Bish told The Observer in an earlier interview.
Bish prefers that local productions be either called Nile Films or Ugawood, cautioning that “films that have tried to respect the art of cinema should never be called Kinna-Uganda”.
The 2011 Young Achievers award winner for film category and fast-rising screenwriter Usama Osam Mukwaya says Kinna-Uganda cheapens local films, suggesting that Ugawood would be more marketable.
“Kinna-Uganda has something to do with mediocrity. We should follow the trends of other industries like Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood; let us call our films Ugawood,” Mukwaya suggests.
However, one of the industry’s most experienced and respected actors, Michael Wawuyo, is incensed by the youngsters’ suggestion that Kinna-Uganda be ditched for a fancy, exotic name.
“It is very imperialistic and quite absurd to want to change a name that our audiences relate to simply because you want to impress outsiders. I totally disagree with Ugawood because it is not original; that is copy-catting,” Wawuyo said.
The 54-year-old Last King of Scotland actor advised those advocating for a name-change to instead channel their energy towards improving the quality of films: “Ugandans want Kinna-U so it is upon us to give them the best.”
While younger filmmakers elect that the Kinna-Uganda name is cheap, less marketable, localised and old-fashioned, their veteran counterparts revere it – trends suggest. Trends further indicate that most of the actors who advocate for name change produce films in the English language rather than the dominant Luganda and other local dialects.
“These young boys and girls are so Hollywoodernised. They pretend to be helping the industry yet they are dragging it into further oblivion in actual sense. Let them petition government for funds instead of advocating for a name-change,” one actress who declined to be named, advised.
Celebrated stage and screen actors, Mariam Ndagire and Kwezi Kaganda, however, have a different take. They don’t think the name matters at all.
“I do not care how my movies are termed. What I work towards achieving is giving audiences quality work,” Ndagire says.
Kaganda, on the other hand, advises: “Audiences should be involved in this; at the end of it all, they matter most.”
The audiences coined the name Kinna-U; the film makers want more sophistication. Let’s wait with bated breath.