Devil’s chest; a botched action attempt

By Collins Kakwezi

Hassan Mageye’s Devil’s Chest, contender for this year’s Amakula International Film Festival Golden Impala Award for Best International Feature Film, was a brave attempt, but certainly fell short of expectations.

Mageye made a brave attempt by venturing out of his comfort zone- dramas, and attempting to do an action drama about a woman who is forced to be dreaded rebel leader Joseph Kony’s wife, and struggles for her freedom, despite the inhumane conditions in the jungles of Northern Uganda.

However, the film fails to adequately portray Joseph Masaaba as the ruthless rebel Kony was. Though known for being heartless, Mageye portrays Kony as a kind man, who treats a female abductee with respect, providing her with ‘decent’ shelter, food and medicine for her child, even offering “to give her his heart” at one point.

It is hard for a Ugandan who heard about the rebel leader’s atrocities to relate to the film, which clearly fails to bring out the ‘devil’ that most people perceive Kony to be.

Speaking to Cristiano Civitillo, a film director and film expert, he told this reporter that the major problem with Ugandan film makers was that they do poorly prepared scripts.

“A film is all about the story. If the story is not good, you can’t expect to make a good film out of it. However, most Ugandan film makers, take very little time on the script, yet it is the most important stage of making a film.”, Civitillo said.

Though he was not directly referring to this film, his analysis seems to be true in regard to Devil’s chest. The language is below par, with poor Swahili and English being spoken, bearing testament to the fact that the script was poorly written.

At one point, the dialogue in the film is incoherent with the subtitles. For example, there’s a point where an actor asks his daughter, “Are you okay?”, but the subtitles on the screen are “Where is Mummy?”. At another point, the lead actress asks, “Have you brought us medical?”, to inquire whether they had been brought medicine.

Such flimsy mistakes are a big embarrassment to a director who has done over ten pictures, and boasts a wealth of experience and awards.

However, despite all these shortcomings, the film had a few credits, like the performance of the lead actress, as well as a few scenes like where the BBC journalists come to the bush to interview Kony. 

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The Amakula International Film Festival is presented by
Bayimba Cultural Foundation in partnership with The DOEN Foundation, Africalia, Kampala Film School and the Uganda Museum.