Interview: One on one with the Amakula International Film Festival Artistic Director

Faisal Kiwewa, the Amakula International Film Festival artistic director

Faisal Kiwewa, the Artistic Director Amakula International Film Festival.

By Edwin Junior

The Amakula International Film Festival, now in its 11th edition, opened on Wednesday at the Kampala Film School in Ggaba.

The festival is still reeling from a setback that saw it take a four-year break, to return in 2016 under Baymiba Cultural Organisation. This is the second edition being held under the new management.

We sat down with Faisal Kiwewa, the Amakula International Film Festival artistic director and also founder Bayimba Cultural Organisation, to talk about their plans and future of the festival.

Here are the excerpts of the interview:

What is Bayimba’s vision for Amakula International Film Festival?

We want to do the Amakula International Film Festival differently and are putting our focus on four things.

1. We want to make film more social for Ugandans. People like to hangout in cool environments and get new experiences so that is why we are introducing the drive-in cinema as a way of breaking through the average social life of Ugandans.

2. We are also focusing on market for films because we realize there is a lot of local content but there is no one buying.

3. We are trying to tap into new audiences and that is why this year we are working with young filmmakers and students so that they can appreciate such festivals as platforms for exposure.

4. We are also looking at support for local film production. We want to tap into possible connections and collaborations so we can find appropriate film funders and co-producers who will invest in Ugandan content.

What are some of the challenges you have faced so far?

Our first challenge has been lack of quality productions because, as an international festival, we have a standard to uphold.

Last year, which was supposed to be our second edition, was a challenge for us because we did not get content to program and had to postpone the festival so as to give local filmmakers more time to provide more content.

Secondly, there is lack of enough appropriate spaces. We don’t want to present Amakula in the traditional forms of cinema, and there is not enough spaces that can capture the free spirit of the festival.

The third challenge so far has been regulations by the Media Council which limit what films can presented to our audience.

Why was the festival hosted in two venues this year?

We want to break through the market and diversify our audience. We hosted the first program of the festival at Kampala Film School to engage with students while the second part of the festival was hosted at the Uganda Museum so that the general public could also partake in the experience.

Amakula International Film Festival has previously been criticized for lack of local productions. What is your take on this?

Amakula Film Festival is based on promoting local talent. Although there is a lot of local content being produced, not all of it can be programmed because some of it does not fit in our screening criteria.

On the other hand, there are already plenty of platforms focusing on local content and we can not all be doing the same thing. Amakula wants to bring a different dimension. The festival adds an international feel for the local filmmakers.

What are you doing to attract more local filmmakers to participate in the festival?

We are still studying the market, and learning how to engage. For instance, this year we have decided to work with individuals who already invested in the industry. These individuals bring the experience and connections, and that is one of the ways we are trying to address this issue.

Why did you introduce the Best Student Film Award this year?

Besides working with the Kampala Film School, there were so many film submissions by students this year, and we felt this award could motivate and inspire film students to do more films.

The festival is returning after two years, is this a plan to make it biennial?

No, the festival will continue to be held annually. But like I said earlier, last year, which was supposed to be our second edition, there was not enough content to program for the festival and so we had to postpone it.

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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.

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