Wakaliwood (part 2)

The miracle of 7th Art from Uganda

During 2011, Wakaliwood distributed two more films, The Return of Uncle Benon and Rescue Team. Alan Hofmanis - an American film festival director intrigued by the trailer for Who Killed Captain Alex? - decided to travel to Uganda to analyse and understand the production chain of Ramon Film Productions. The result was Wakaliwood - The Documentary, made and released in 2012, in which Hofmanis and director Ben Barenholtz follow Nabwana and the Wakaliwood staff through every stage of the creation of their feature film, from the construction of the equipment to the shooting and door-to-door distribution by the staff of the studio's latest work, Bukunja Tekunja Mitti: The Cannibals. Hofmanis, who fell in love with the collaborative atmosphere and the ideals of cultural promotion and social claim that are breathed in the studio, decided to settle in Kampala to promote the Ugandan studio's work abroad in the best possible way. The documentary shows the backstage of what would become Ramon Film Productions' most successful film, Bad Black, which was released in 2016 after seven other feature films and a short film.

The film, an action-comedy loosely based on a true story and produced on a shoestring budget of around $65 over 5 years of production, was presented at several festivals and became an immediate public and critical success. The crude description of daily life in the slums, the hope of orphans and other ghetto dwellers to live a better economic and social condition and the behaviour of greedy and absent fathers, with autobiographical references to periods of civil war in Uganda, turns this film into a cinematic monument to poverty in the country and the strength of will to overcome the adversity of its people. Nabwana's multifaceted artistic sensibility breathes perfectly into the film despite the limitations of the genre, giving the viewer, whether Ugandan or not, an involvement that goes beyond the simplicity of a laugh or an adrenaline rush; it succeeds in bringing out the deepest issues, those that touched the director and all the people involved in the production of this feature film.

The characteristics of his previous works are refined: the action scenes are directed with an increasingly intense rhythm, the number of extras that Nabwana manages grows and the director himself proves himself capable also in directing the younger actors involved in the acting game and in writing strong female characters. The film picks up six awards from four film festivals and a further nomination, as well as gaining an additional screening for the final day of the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival.

In the same year that Bad Black is unveiled and released, Wakaliwood runs a campaign on Kickstarter to raise $160 to upgrade the studio and re-shoot the lost film Tebaatusasula. The response from fans is overwhelming and the campaign raises just over $13,000 in total.

Over the next few years, Nabwana continued to devote himself completely to production, even accepting commissioned work to keep his business going. He finished and released three more films: Bruce U in 2017, Boda Boda Killer: Ani yamutta in 2019 and Kung Fu Brothers in 2020. At the same time, the documentary on Wakaliwood, Once Upon a Time in Uganda, was filmed and presented on 12 November last year at DOC NYC. The director is currently working on three films, all in different stages of production, and has announced as many more. In this atmosphere, one could say that despite minimal earnings and difficulties, Nabwana has already realised many of his goals as a filmmaker. Through his films he has enabled many people in the community he nurtured to express themselves in a difficult art, creating and producing an impressive amount of films through his passion, determination and love, and he is reaping the rewards.

Under the name Wakaliwood Ugandans from many different tribes work together, sharing the joy of working together on the Seventh Art. The success of his new documentary, as well as the various awards and honourable mentions he has received over the past few years, have made Nabwana the face of Ugandan cinema and its most prolific representative, despite the fact that his films are made from the bottom up. The actors he has trained over the years are now ready to follow in the footsteps of others; Nabwana himself shares what he learns and has learned about filmmaking with those who work with him as a director, enabling others in his country to acquire new skills that they can then disseminate.

If the response from overseas audiences continues to be so strong, Nabwana and all the people who participate with him in his desire to make films will enjoy it. Over the years, Wakaliwood has expanded and different areas of production have formed within the studio. Currently, going to Wakaliga you can find the people who work for Ramon Film Productions moving like one big family.

At a time like this for Uganda - when Museveni's regime is showing its most totalitarian hues in reference to the last elections, characterised by restrictions on the use of the internet by the population and strategic arrests in the campaign against the youngest opponent, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu - there is a need for independent artistic production that allows a reflection on life in Uganda. Although Nabwana's hope of being supported by a state that actively promotes artistic production within its borders has not been fulfilled, the director has managed to reach heights he never dreamed of. On this journey he remains ever grateful to all the people who have helped him and to the viewers who support his love of cinema.

Wakaliwood is no longer a filmmaker's dream, it is the biggest filmmaking hotbed of a community and Uganda itself.

NDR: If you would like to support the work of the RFP and Wakaliwood you can visit the links between the sources

Share the post

  • L'Autore

    Tobia De Siati


Sections Culture Society


MondoInternazionale MI MIPost Uganda Wakaliga Kampala Cinema Società Cultura Cinema indipendente DIY post Africa Orientale Wakaliwood Ramon Film Productions RFP Produzione dal basso Luganda Kung-Fu Arti marziali I.G.G. Nabwana Nabwana Industria cinematografica Bad Black

You might be interested in


Willy Monteiro Duarte

Alice Stillone

Il problema degli Stati Uniti che resterà insoluto

Melissa Cortese

The Lipa migrants: a humanitarian defeat

Elisa Capitani
Log in to your Mondo Internazionale account
Forgot Password? Get it back here