BIG NEWS, EVENTS AS FILM TAKES CENTRE STAGE

The past week has been dominated by film news. From the training of university students in film production, to the Toronto International Film Festival, to the selection of a Ugandan movie for submission to the Academy Awards.  

In Mbale, students of Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) got a feel of what it takes to produce a movie right from the birth of an idea to the cinema.

The week-long training programme in which students of Mass Communication were equipped with skills in cinematography, screenwriting, editing, sound and production, was sponsored by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC).

Working through two organisations, United in Film and Real Impact Foundation, UCC seeks to promote the film industry in Uganda by empowering students with basic skills at an early stage in their career journeys.

From Mbale, students’ film training heads to Gulu University from 16th – 23rd September, and thereafter to Mbarara from 30th September – 6th October 2019.

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Still in Mbale, operators of video halls, video libraries and film publishers were engaged in a sensitisation workshop about the development and regulation of the film industry in Uganda on Friday, 13th September.

The workshop, organised by UCC in partnership with the Media Council, Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), and the Pornography Control Committee, sought to raise awareness on the standards and laws that govern the film sector, especially regarding production, distribution, exhibition, classification as well as the protection and enforcement of copyright.

It follows an earlier one held on 1st August 2019 at the UCC head office in Bugolobi, Kampala, which was attended by more than one hundred film industry players and culminated in the symbolic burning of pornographic CDs after the stakeholders pledged to combat such illicit stuff.

The gist of the workshops is to sensitise the film industry stakeholders as the September 30th deadline to clamp down on illicit practices, including piracy, pornography and copyright infringement, among others, looms.

At the head office workshop on 1st August, UCC Executive Director Mr. Godfrey Mutabazi said: “These government agencies (UCC, Media Council, URSB, Police) have agreed to commence joint enforcement of all the legal requirements and industry standards by 1st October 2019.”

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Both students’ training and the sensitisation of film operators precede the 7th edition of the Uganda Film Festival (UFF) from 25th – 29th November 2019.

With the deadline for submission of entries having expired on Sunday, 15th September 2019, all is set for the biggest event on the national film calendar.

The Uganda Film Festival was established in 2013 by Uganda Communications Commission to promote the local film industry both locally and internationally, and to bring all industry players and stakeholders together in a bid to stimulate its development.

The festival has already opened doors for Ugandan movies, the latest being 94 Terror, a movie about the Rwanda genocide, which won the people’s choice award at the Uganda Film Festival last year, and recently won several awards at the 5th edition of the Golden Movie Awards in Ghana.

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Meanwhile, it was a great week for Ugandan film as news broke that a home-grown movie Kony: Order from Above had been selected by the Uganda Academy Selection Committee (UASC) to compete for the International Film Award at the 92nd Academy Awards.

This is the first time Uganda is submitting an entry to the prestigious awards, also known as the Oscars, following the launch of the seven-member UASC in July this year.

A statement issued by the committee on 11th September, said the selection of the film directed by Steve T. Ayeny would remain provisional “pending the film’s fulfilment of all Academy eligibility criteria ahead of the October 01, 2019 Oscar submission deadline for all country entries.”

In the movie about the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in northern Uganda, two young abductees who become lovers must keep their love alive amid all the mayhem and turbulence around them.

The UASC statement called on government institutions, the media and the public to support the film to meet the necessary requirements, including the screening at the cinema for at least seven consecutive days before the October 1 deadline.

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To be the best you have to learn from the best. And so Uganda couldn’t be left behind as the 44th Toronto International Film Festival got under way. Described as the ultimate destination for creators and film lovers, TIFF gets the very best content from all over the world to converge in Toronto every year. Uganda and UCC was represented by none other than the Executive Director himself Mr. Godfrey Mutabazi. Among other engagements, Mr. Mutabazi had engagement with Canada’s minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Sylvia Jones, who called on him at Uganda’s exhibition stall.

Uganda is positioning itself as a premier film destination in Africa, and UCC is working to make this a reality. The main rivals for this position are, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.

Among other things, the event brought out the importance of distribution, exhibition and marketing in the film value chain. Governments were called upon to support the value chain if the film industry is to prosper. It was noted, for instance, that some countries with well-developed film industries, such as Canada, United States and UK, continue to maintain generous budgets in support of content production.

The UCC team in Toronto also had discussions with Ms Mika Orr of Mikooka Productions based in New York, who is scouting for a filming location in Uganda for a 250-day funded film project.

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Meanwhile in Budapest, Hungary, Uganda hosted a workshop on SMEs digital inclusion at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World 2019.

ITU Telecom World is a global ICT event that brings together governments, corporates and tech SMEs to discuss acceleration of innovation in ICTs for social and economic development.

The Director of the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF) Mr. Nyombi Thembo, who led the Ugandan delegation to the event, delivered a keynote address on “Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Digital Agenda.”

SMEs constitute 80% of Uganda’s private sector but many remain largely informal with no form of business registration or bank account. Yet if they could leverage digital solutions, SMEs would transform themselves and the economy in general.

A panel discussion on the subject that was moderated by Uganda’s Geoffrey Sengendo, the Head of Technical Services at RCDF, also had John Omo, the Secretary General African Telecommunications Union.

On the side lines of the event, Mr. Nyombi signed a letter of intent for knowledge exchange between the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

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