BY ALEXANDER TYSON
Deep in the slums of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, Isaac Nabwana is making ultra-low-budget action movies which are being screened at festivals worldwide.
When I first saw the trailer to Who Killed Captain Alex (a movie which is now available in full for free on YouTube, courtesy of Wakaliwood) I knew instantly I wanted to be a part of whatever craziness was happening in Kampala. As someone who considers Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1985 classic Commando the greatest film ever made, the lo-fi action and over the top violence really appealed to the action wannabe inside of me.
At the time of writing I've currently visited Wakaliwood twice with the hope of going there again before I return to the UK. Every time I've visited I have been welcomed with open arms by not just Isaac but the entire crew, including his wife and children who are also involved in the making of his films. Wakaliwood is composed of just a few small buildings, including the house where he lives and which he built himself, yet the crew are currently building a 1:1 scale helicopter which they plan to use in future movies.
I'm not the first muzungu (local word for a traveller) to venture on set since Walakiwood's sudden upsurge in popularity, but I am the first from Britain. Soon, for an as-yet untitled film, I am clad in a blue jumpsuit accepting my orders in the language of Luganda (which takes me several attempts to get right) and shooting balaclava-sporting bad guys in the face with a home-made prop rifle before getting shot and killed myself, and adding my name to the list of the "deceased" on the walls of one of the buildings.
As well as worldwide recognition for their films, Wakaliwood hopes to branch out into other media such as videogames (which as a games design student here at Brunel I'm eager to work on - so look out for that!)
Interview with Isaac Nabwana
A.T: How did the whole Wakaliwood thing get started? What was it that made you all want to make movies?
Isaac: I started Wakaliwood in 2005 with an audio studio calling on local youth to record their music for free and helping them promote their talents. Many had written music but could not afford studio fees and I knew an audio studio was going to be needed in film production later. I started teaching myself editing and started making a music video and asked everyone interested in acting to join me every Sunday to do a movie that was never released. Most who joined were my brother's students of martial arts but because I did not know how to write a script it did not work. In 2008 I learned script writing from a friend who had written a play and wanted me to help him adapt it into a movie, which I shot and edited in just ten days.
A.T: How much of a surprise was the international success and why do you think here in Uganda you're not as popular with the locals?
Isaac: We were shocked but not very much because I predicted during the making of Who Killed Captain Alex that it was going to open doors for us internationally. We are popular down in the villages and ghettos of Uganda but it is only the corporate types that doesn't know much about us. Others know about Wakaliwood but they don't think Uganda can produce an action movie so they don't give it a chance. Those who have watched now believe Uganda is more than ready.
A.T: Given Uganda's somewhat turbulent history with regards to Idi Amin, as well as Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, how does it feel to promote Uganda in such a positive way and to such acclaim (as well as bringing people like myself to Wakaliwood to meet the crew?)
Isaac: It is great and joyful! I grew up listening to the BBC and all you would hear about is people dying but now people come from all over the world saying "I want to die in a Wakaliwood movie!"
A.T: How long have you all known each other? I always get the impression that Wakaliwood is like one big family.
Isaac: Yes, Wakaliwood is a big family. People keep on coming and joining at different times and from different places. Bisao joined during the making of the movie KIsadaaka Baana: The Child Sacrifice. VJ Emmie and Kizza Manisulu joined during the making of Who Killed Captain Alex, and Alan Ssali came from New York during the marketing of a movie called Rescue Team and the shooting of the movie Bad Black. Others like Bukenya Charles and Robert Kizito I have known since childhood and with their martial arts techniques I always thought Is could make a good movie with them.
A.T: Who are your biggest film influences - acting and directing? Also which are your favourite action films?
Isaac: Commando is one of my favourites plus All the President's Men, Rambo and The Wild Geese as well as the movies of Jackie Chan. James Cameron is one of my favourite directors.
PHOTOS BY ATIM ANNE