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Will Pearl Magic transform our local film industry?

The launch of Pearl Magic TV, a DStv channel dedicated to Ugandan entertainment, could be the much-needed dose to showcase the best of Ugandan content to the rest of Africa, writes NICHOLAS BAMULANZEKI.

It is official; there is a new pay-TV channel dedicated to promote Ugandan film and arts. Pearl Magic TV, which airs on Channel 161 on DStv and Channel 304 on GOtv, rolled off its broadcast on Monday at 4pm in the presence of several industry stakeholders.

Albert Nga, the MultiChoice Uganda marketing manager, describes it as a channel truly Ugandan with a focus on Ugandan content.

“For a while, we’ve had Maisha Magic East that broadcasts Ugandan content once a week but we knew we needed more customized content relevant to our own Ugandan people,” he said.

“This is going to bring additional value with a channel that they can claim ownership to. This channel also demonstrates our investment in growing local content that resonates with our continued support to the growth and development of the African entertainment industry.”

Meddie Kaggwa, the head of content at Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) was full of praise for the initiative that has opened an avenue of endless opportunities for the local film industry.

Meanwhile, Gerald Sserunjogi, the president of Uganda Producers Association, could not hide his excitement at the prospect of having Ugandan content on the international stage. “We now have a home for our content and it is a challenge for us to ensure our standards match the expectations of viewers,” he noted.

“This is the time for Ugandan content and our film industry to catapult; this channel will definitely be an avenue towards our aim as filmmakers to put Ugandan film on the world map.”

At the launch, trailer after trailer projected how Ugandan drama, music, arts and film will be given utmost priority. It will be a blend of fresh dramas such as Love Makanika, Mistakes Girls Do and Balikoowa In The City, as well as recent classics including The Hostel, The Honourables and Tendo Sisters.

Pearl Magic is also dedicating ample time to Ugandan music with a variety of shows and what intrigued me most is Behind The Beat, which offers the behind-the-scenes planning and execution of a song and video. 

However, everything did not go without some scepticism, especially the prospect of having an Indian soap, Doli, dubbed in Luganda. Filmmakers Matt Bish and Nana Kagga could not hide their reservations.

“If everything is going to be Ugandan, then it is a damning indictment on the promotion of Ugandan content if we are to have Indian soaps,” reasoned Kagga.

She seemed to have the support of other filmmakers. Nga explained that nothing is cast in stone and alterations will be done to match the audience preference.

“We had to start from somewhere and our programming was reached at after careful research,” he reasoned. “We need time to gauge how far we can go.”

Perhaps what Nga did not say openly is that numbers drive content regardless of the level of patriotism. It is an open secret that can best be seen with how European football is widely embraced at the expense of local football.

So, in a way, the elephant in the room is whether Ugandan filmmakers have what it takes to take full advantage of the channel.

The challenge now falls in the hands of local film industry to produce quality content fit to be viewed across the continent. The fact that MultiChoice has to buy this content in order to air it makes it an even tougher prospect for anyone dreaming to be showcased on Pearl Magic. Yet, as Mariam Ndagire put it,

“There is no better motivation than being challenged to be the best when you know a huge reward awaits you.”

 

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