There’s Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood and even Wakaliwood – a nickname for the developing film industry in Wakaliga, in Uganda’s capital Kampala, where director Isaac Nabwana thrives; an enterprising filmmaker who works under the stage name Nabwana IGG, and who, with his small production company, Roman Film Productions, has been making films for over a decade, with some 46 titles to date.
The films, which are heavily inspired by martial art films and Hollywood and Hong Kong action movies, are shot mainly in the neighborhood of Wakaliga, a poor community where basic essentials like electricity are a luxury. And yet Nabwana and his team of over 100 actors and technicians, have been able to make good use of what they have (or create whatever they need out of available resources), and have produced movies at a staggering rate, made for virtually no money.
And when I say no money, I really mean it. Nabwana’s first big smash, 2005’s “Who Killed Capitan Alex?”, was made for only $200, and as Tambay said in an article about him last year (here) “the trailer for ‘Captain Alex’ on YouTube has been played over 2.2 million times! That’s a lot of views! And his second film, “Red Ban,” has been played 1.8 million times… Collectively, all his YouTube videos have about 5 million plays.”
Sure, you can laugh at the crude DIY computer-generated effects which look like they were made by a grammar school class, as well as their sloppy production values, but you have to admit that they move, and are very entertaining.
Now the trailer for his latest film, “Operation Kakongoliro! The Ugandan Expendables,” has been released; and Nabwana boasts that it is his company’s biggest production to date, costing about $2000. And on the surface, it may look like all of his other action films, with the same production values, but look closer.
Compared to his earlier films, “Expendables” shows some real improvement. The action scenes look better choreographed and staged, instead of the helter-skelter approach seen in his past films. Also the editing looks tighter, and Nabwana, with a tad more of a budget, moves the camera more, even incorporating some overhead extended travelling shots, filmed from the POV of a helicopter.
Am I saying that Nabwana’s “Expendables” is equal to your typical multi-million-dollar Hollywood action film? Not hardly. He’s got a long way to go to compete with those movies. But maybe he doesn’t have to. Also I will admit that, if I had to choose between one of Nabwana’s movies and the latest Michael Bey slick but soul-less, project-placement-heavy sledgehammer of a commercial posing as a film, I’m going with Nabwana, who displays a real joy for filmmakling every time.
In fact, Nabwana has now gotten on the crowdfunding tip, and has created a Kickstarter page where people can donate money on a monthly basis to help make, as he says, “Da Dest of Da Best Movies!”
Check out the trailer and a behind-the-scenes short documentary for the making of “The Ugandan Expendables.”