Amakula International Film Festival will starting next year run a fund aimed at benefiting Ugandan filmmakers.
The announcement was made during a press brief held at the Uganda Museum in Kampala yesterday to mark the end of the festival’s tenth annual edition.
“We are in talks with our partners to come up with a film fund, and we are certain that starting next year local filmmakers will be able to access it. It’s going to be highly competitive, only outstanding film projects will benefit from it,” Faisal Kiwewa, the festival’s new director, told journalists.
Kiwewa, who under his Bayimba Cultural Foundation has partnered with a number of locally-based arts institutions to revive Amakula following a three-year hiatus, couldn’t give details of how much the fund will be worth.
The celebrated arts manager however hinted on the fact it will be a substantial sum, able to aid in the production of at least one full length film every year.
“It would be nice to open the festival with the film that was made with the help of our funds,” Kiwewa said, revealing Durban FilmMart, Africa’s premium film financing market, might come on board in providing this fund.
News of the fund should particularly be refreshing for local filmmakers considering film funding in Uganda is virtually nonexistent.
Most Ugandan filmmakers simply can’t stand the laborious process of applying for foreign grants, so they have to dig deep in their shallow pockets to bring their stories to life.
During yesterday’s press brief, Kiwewa took a swipe at film regulators in Uganda, accusing them of wanting to benefit from an industry they are not supporting.
“I find it ridiculous for Media Council (Uganda’s censorship board) to charge a very high fee on a finished film without caring a single bit on how it got made,” he lamented.
The Media Council, through its Film Classification Secretariat, charges a classification fee of Shs 150,000 and $150 (about Shs 500,000) for local and foreign films of up to 120 minutes runtime, respectively.
For each extra minute, the Council surcharges Shs2,000 and $5 (about Shs16,000) for local and foreign films, respectively.
In the absence of a national film commission, a coalition of about five government agencies collectively known as the Coordination Working Group (CWG) was in 2013 established to guide the development of the local sector.
Led by Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the CWG has so far put in place a few plausible incentives such as an annual film festival but is yet to create the much-needed film fund.
Kiwewa said the decision to create such a fund is in line with the new Amakula’s five-year development plan which focuses on developing the local film industry holistically.
The festival’s Dutch-American founders last week endorsed Kiwewa as the right man to guide Uganda’s oldest and most revered independent annual cinema showcase on its new journey.
And with the fund in the offing, filmmakers can only hope for the best.