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The Boda Boda Thief gets Berlin nod

This year promises to be big for film, even though the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs) have snubbed us.

But why the fuss; Timbuktu too was erased from their nomination list but went on to make an Oscar bid for best foreign language film. In the same way, Ugandan cinema is bouncing back from that snub with a premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, where Donald Mugisha premiered his third full-length film, The Boda Boda Thieves.

The film that is inspired by the Italian classic, The Bicycle Thief, revolves around a small family of Rosa, Goodman and their son, Abel. Ever since Abel’s parents brought him to the city as a young child, the family’s hopes of finding a better life have turned into a nightmare.

Abel is a typical 18-year-old; fun-loving, inexperienced, sometimes irresponsible and with big, but sometimes impractical dreams of accomplishing more than his circumstances allow. The family’s dreams are further ruined when Abel loses the motorcycle or boda boda, belonging to the shrewd businessman, Mzee Bujagali, to whom the family is indebted.

The film follows Abel’s quest to recover the stolen motorcycle and in the process gain an insider’s view to urban Uganda, its underworld and the generation gap between urban migrants and their children. The film has already pulled off a few wins in Berlin, on top of its sold-out premiere at the festival.

In its early stages, the project generated buzz and backing from some of Europe’s biggest film bodies, attracting funding from the World Cinema Fund, the Hubert Bals Fund, the Global Film Initiative, and the Rotterdam and Berlin film festivals. South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation also threw its weight behind the project.

But all this did not come cheap; the film almost stalled in production after they had kicked off five years ago. For some time, the crew that includes producers Sarah Muhoho from Kenya and South Africa’s James Taylor could not come to Uganda following reports that the country was on terror alert, then the lead actor too had his woes with the law.

Word has it that he is currently doing time behind bars. Mugisha is one of Uganda’s most celebrated film directors with big shots such as Divisionz and Yogera under his belt. Before he branched into film, he was mostly known for lending his skill to the music video scene.

Even when he hasn’t directed as many for the past few years, he has more videos on international channels than all the present directors combined. Mugisha was behind Uganda’s first ever Channel O award-winning videos, Kube by Bebe Cool alongside his Bashment Crew, and Peter Miles’ Muwala. His The Boda Boda Thieves will be coming to Kampala cinemas later this year.


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