|Article and pix by Steven Tendo
Published March 16, 2007
DivizionZ, a new feature film starring popular local musicians has been released. A production of Deddac/ Yes! That’s Us, this 90-minute film features Bobi Wine, Mark ‘Buchaman’ Bugembe, Peter Miles, Menshan, Bonny ‘Lot’ Olem and Catherine ‘Scarlet’ Nakyanzi who are surely going to give it a boost when it premieres in down town Kampala in April 2007. STEVEN TENDO reports.
Donald “The Don” Mugisha and James Tyler co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced this film to which musicians Bobi Wine and Eunice Baguma also lent their writing skills.
Mugisha, one of the pioneers of the film workshop held every Thursday at the Uganda National Theatre, has come a long way from the days he made rudimentary films with a small hand-held camera. In 2004, for example, he produced a six-minute film, The Grieve, on a relative who had been mauled by a wolf shortly after graduating from university. At the third Amakula Kampala International Film Festival in 2006, 610, a film on which he had worked, won the Golden Impala.
“We wrote this film for 10 months with James Tyler then took two months re-writing it with Bobi Wine and finally shot for six months between June and early December 2006,” Mugisha explains.
DivizionZ is about life in central Kampala and how the people thrown in this area
“The film follows the stories of four youths Kapo (Robert Ssentamu), Bana (Mark ‘Buchaman’ Bugembe), Kanyankole (Catherine Nakyanzi) and Mulokole (Bonny Olem) who come from the four administrative regions of Uganda to seek better prospects of life in Kampala.”
Through a contact, they have been offered a performance slot at a pub in the city that is starting Karaoke sessions. Kapo quits his job and raises some money to buy a track (instrumental) on which his crew and he will perform, plus the fare to the city. The youth are however ambushed by graduated tax enforcement officers before they can get to the city. After this, they find themselves with no money and no instruments for performing music thus putting their friendship and mission to great testing.
A simple plot that rides on generalities and stereotypes, DivizionZ is bound to make a splash in Kampala perhaps bigger than that made by Feelings Struggle, a 2005 film by Hajj Ashraf Ssimwogerere on a girl who is kidnapped on the way to school mainly because, the producers are calling it a guerilla film.
“We plan to distribute the film locally first. There will be a premier here in April 2007 before we take it across borders to film festivals in East Africa and the rest of Africa,” Mugisha says. After that, plans are underway to take it further to festivals in Europe. The themes of sacrifice, ambition, loyalty and hardship are likely to appeal to almost everyone everywhere.
DivizionZ is intended to interest the common workers who live in the middle of Kampala and who have dreams and aspirations not so different from those of the characters portrayed in the film. Mugisha says the aim was to portray the life of a denizen of Kampala city without any pretensions.
The film’s use of natural brown and minimal lighting will perhaps be lost on the first audiences but there is always a start. With the renewed interest in East African films and stories from the outside, it is imperative that the film-going audiences get to know what is good and what is not.
The film will probably survive more because of the big name stars than because of the acting. Apart from Nakyanzi and Olem, the others are not so good and in many
The directing is perhaps better than the other local productions that have come
The directors are not shy to use different camera angles. There are many takes for each scene, which perhaps gives the picture an exaggerated feel at times.
The sound track is made by Benon Mugumbya of the Benon and Vamposs group and this is expected to create a spill over for this singer and others like him. The ambition is for these artists to cross over to movies and others from film to music.
The use of the local Luganda with a mixture of English will perhaps be another challenge when the film finally crosses over to the other countries. The director calls this Lluyaaye, something different from Sheng in Kenya. It is a developing language which is mainly used in the central region of Kampala. This calls for the inclusion of subtitles and that is something the producers have not done.
Admitting that they faced numerous obstacles, Mugisha nevertheless says, “I don’t want to look at these obstacles as problems. ‘Challenges’ is a better word. For instance, there is this dangerous place down in the ghetto in Kamwokya, (a suburban area North of Kampala) called ‘The Beach’. We couldn’t shoot there after 7pm. In fact we had an incident where there was a misunderstanding with the leaders at the ‘Beach’ over money issues. We paid the wrong people and almost got stabbed for that.
The year 2006 was the time of yet another film which was controversial because it mirrored a high profile court case. Made by Ssimwogerere, Murder in the City: Doctor Kiyingi was subject to attacks from those who thought it sought to influence a case that was still in court. The judge ruled that it was okay for the film to come out after he looked at the script before it was released. Ssimwogerere was even kidnapped by shadowy figures he later said had tried to force him to rewrite the film.
The film mirrored the events in the murder case of a prominent Kampala city lawyer, Robinah Kiyingi. Her husband, a Ugandan-Australian cardiologist, Aggrey Kiyingi, was arrested and charged with the murder but he was acquitted.
Ssimwogerere’s kidnap story was widely laughed at and it was assumed that he only wanted publicity for his film.
This is the head start that DivizionZ has been handed.
DivizionZ also comes at a time when the industry is still abuzz with the recent Oscar triumph of American actor, Forest Whitaker who won the best actor award for his portrayal of the late Ugandan president, Idi Amin, albeit in a skewed fashion, according to critics.