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Ugandan Donald Mugisha Receives Berlinale Funding Boost For Feature Inspired By “Bicycle Thieves”

Ugandan Donald Mugisha Receives Berlinale Funding Boost For Feature Inspired By "Bicycle Thieves"

Congrats to Ugandan Donald Mugisha whose feature film project, The Boda Boda Thieves, won the 10,000 Euro VFF Highlight Pitch Award at the the 10th edition of the Berlinale Talent Campus last month.

The participants of the Talent Project Market had the opportunity to present their film projects in a professional setting, to potential international co-producers and distributors, and the project apparenatly wowed enough to beat out dozens of others for the winning prize.

Recall I first profiled director Mugisha and his Boda Boda Thieves feature film last fall; at the time, it was one of just 5 projects selected by the World Cinema Fund to receive production funding from its allotted $283,000 grant.

Donald’s project, which he will direct, received the largest chunk of the fund – $81,000, as South Africa based Switch Films signed on to produce.

In addition to those funds, and his winnings from the Belinale last month, Donald’s project has also received funding from other financiers, including at the third Africa Produce Co-Production Forum of the 8th Tarifa African Film Festival (FCAT) in Spain, where the project secured a co-production deal with the Kenyan company Hot Sun Films.

The film also received special mention in the the International Relations ARTE Prize for excellence in script writing.

So it looks like the project is coming together nicely, and it’s something we’ll be talking about likely in 2013.

The film’s synopsis reads:

When Goodman gets a job for his son Abel as driver of a motorbike taxi or “Boda-Boda”, he feels like things are possibly finally going his way, that is, until a gang of thieves robs Abel of his treasured motorbike. We follow Goodman and his son Abel on their quest through the city to find their “Boda Boda” and in the process gain an insider’s view of urban Africa, its underworld and the generation gap between urban migrants and their first generation children.

Sounds like a Ugandan take on the Italian neo-realist classic Bicycle Thieves, by Vittorio De Sica.

I’m in! :)

Donald Mugisha is a name I’m already tracking closely, as I am The Boda Boda Thieves.

In the meantime, watch this 12-minute interview with Donald done earlier last year at Tarifa, as he discussed his project, as well as filmmaking in his native Uganda, financing, distribution, and more. It’s worth a look.

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Bicycle Thieves is an important inspiration and template. The late 1970s Jamaican film Rockers has a similar premise — a character buys a motorbike that he sees as the key to making money as an independent music distributor. The bike is stolen but his search for the bike and retaliation against the thieves becomes a critique of the music industry as well as wealth inequality in the wider society. And both films remind me of a photograph by the Malik Sidibe's portraits of families, couples and individuals posed on motorbikes.

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