There ought to be a pushback against the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC)’s infiltration of the film sector. The industry players must collectively ask under what mandate UCC insinuated itself into local cinema.
For the most part, UCC has played its role as the Rottweiler of the broadcast industry to the hilt. It’s catalogue of bullying incidents have seen it square off with electronic media owners and the journalism fraternity enough for the latter to haul them to court recently.
Maybe it’s in the telecommunication sector that it’s playing its regulatory deserves Brownie points. I can attest to not receiving spam SMS messages lately in as much as I’m piqued at UCC’s knee-jerk edicts to re-register my SIM card.
But when it comes to the film sector, what UCC is evidently doing is what the Baganda call “okwetuminkiriza”. It’s entry in 2013 looked noble at the start. They were the Mr. Money Bags back then when they put on the inaugural Uganda Film Festival (UFF). Sceptics raised a couple of red flags about this financial saviour though.
Similar red flags were raised when UCC wanted to take on the role of film classification, a role the Media Council quickly asserted as its own as per the Press and Journalists Act. Both parties amicably settled for UCC hosting the Film Classification Secretariat at its towering Communications House on the third floor with Media Council overseeing its designated classification role.
Elsewhere, the big question was why UCC wasn’t empowering the already established film festivals instead? Amakula Kampala International Film Festival, Uganda’s oldest independent film showcase could have used a monetary kiss of life to get it out of its coma at the time. It has since received CPR by way of the Bayimba Foundation. As to whether Amakula is a shadow of its former glorious and wondrous self is a subject for another day.
The Pearl International Film Festival is another showcase that could have used a financial injection of the kind UCC was muscling around. PIFF had gotten the local industry thumbs up and buy-in that had eluded the rather elitist Amakula.
But the fat cats in the industry chose to fall for UCC’s trinkets and six editions later, the Uganda Film Festival is yet to add that much value to the industry outside throwing good prize money after bad. The attendant catfights that followed the bickering between the producer and director of last year’s big-winning film are just a tip of the disruptive UCC iceberg.
The latest is that UCC has yet again played its “kwetuminkiriza” antics and taken a troupe of cinematic tourists to the African Pavilion at Cannes, a meeting of minds whose focus is on the business of film in Africa and within the African diaspora and aims to leverage recent industry advancements that are shaping African storytelling and the continent’s motion-picture business.
Pardon our cynicism especially when you run your own film market like the vegetable equivalent at Kalerwe. But then again, maybe we should give them the benefit of the doubt; that the UCC officials travelling with our filmmaking posse will pick up best practices and not just wander about the Cote d’Azur bingeing on champagne and caviar. It’s a tall order though considering that hardly any of the stinging jury recommendations from the 2017 Uganda Film Festival edition have been implemented.
The million shilling question though is how the Ugandan reps at Cannes were selected. Was there a call to pitch as is normal film industry practice or it was the usual UCC modus operandi of rewarding those who fawn over its carrots?
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