Polly Kamukama is an award-winning Ugandan journalist, film curator, film critic and communication expert. He holds an MA in Film Studies (Distinction) from the University of Southampton, UK and a Bachelor's in Mass Communication from Uganda's Makerere University. His MA thesis analysed the impact of Uganda's film policy on the development of national cinema. Kamukama is a two-time winner of Best Media Personality award at the Pearl International Film Festival (PIFF).
As a film curator, Kamukama has worked with most of the leading film festivals in Uganda including the Amakula International Film Festival, Uganda Film Festival (UFF), Nile's Diaspora International Film Festival (NDIFF), PIFF and the Euro-Uganda Film Festival (EUFF). He has also attended and covered a number of major international film festivals including the International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR) in the Netherlands, the London Film Festival in the UK, Durban International Film festival in South Africa and Tanzania's Zanzibar International Film Festival.
Kamukama is the founder and editor of the popular Ugandan film blog The Critic, where he currently posts most of his film criticism work. We recently had a chat with him on his experience in the 2018 Euro Uganda Film Festival.
What was unique about the Festival?
This year’s programming was quite diverse in terms of the number of activities, choice of venues and quality of the films we showcased. Among the programmes we had this year include film screenings (both in the cinema and in communities), panel discussions, cocktail parties, Q&A sessions with participating filmmakers and keynote speeches among others. A total of 19 films from across Europe and Uganda covering a range of topical issues including war, climate change and alienation, were showcased in five venues across Kampala.
What exactly was your role during the festival?
As a curator, I was tasked with overseeing the creative and organisational aspects of the festival. Some of my specific tasks included: Selection of the participating local films, designing and implementing the festival’s communication campaign, ensuring that all participating films are reviewed and approved by the government, coordinating all key festival stakeholders and designing the festival programme among others.
How was the selection of films for screening done? Any films which stood out from Europe and Uganda?
While the ten European features that we had at this year were selected by their respective missions, I was responsible for selecting all the nine Ugandan films. Each of the films we showcased was unique in its own right in terms of the genre and style, and they all covered a range of strong social themes that were easily relatable to the audience.
Most of the attendees at the festival I talked to said the opening film, Denmark’s award-winning drama Land of Mine, was outstanding. Based on real-life events after World War II, the film tells the heart-breaking story of a group of young German boys who are forced to clear minefields along a Danish beach. I am Not a Witch, was another crowd favourite. The Zambian-set debut film by Zambian-Welsh director Rungano Nyoni offers a bold critique of Africa’s cultural traditions with its tragic story of an impoverished young girl who’s falsely accused of being a witch. The audience also warmed up to the nine Ugandan films whose impressive aesthetics reflected the steady development the budding local industry has undergone over the last couple of years.
And who was on the panel?
A panel discussion on ‘Gender Representation in Film’ was also held alongside the screening of two female-directed and female-led narratives – UK’s I am Not a Witch and Chebet by Ugandan filmmaker Waheedah Mwagale – on the evening of 12 June 2018 at National Theatre. The panel discussion was comprised of renowned Ugandan producer Nathan Magola, filmmaker and artist Mariam Ndagire and Chebet director Waheedah Mwagale
What issues came up from the conversations?
The panel unpicked and gave local context to some of the issues raised during the screening of - I Am Not a Witch and Uganda’s Chebet. Both films, directed by young female filmmakers with their stories revolving around young oppressed African women. The panel discussed the position of female creatives, including challenges and opportunities, within Uganda’s burgeoning film sector. It was revealed during the discussion that there’s gross gender disparity within the industry with male creatives taking up nearly all key positions within of Uganda’s film sector. Most of the females are on the other hand relegated to minor acting roles. Filmmakers Mwagale and Ndagire however– urged young aspiring female filmmakers to seize the opportunity and show their worth by pushing the envelope and telling stories that truly matter.
Q and A by Wakabi Eric