Reviews as a foundation for Ugandan film culture

May 2008 -

"If you want to create a film culture, you need good movie reviewers", says Alice Smits, director of the Amakula film festival in Uganda. Workshops are held to teach journalists how to write reviews.

"When we send our press releases about movies, or about the festival itself, we later see that complete sentences from our text have been copied into the papers. Most of the time, the journalists don't bother to come to us and interview the film directors about their views. Neither do films get a critical view from the reviewers." Smits is not very satisfied with the way the Ugandan press treats the art of film. "Sometimes I get the impression that all qualified journalists write about politics. Culture is not considered important enough to get experienced journalists to write about it. Art is not really appreciated in Uganda anyway, there is not even a Minister of Culture anymore."

Amakula, which is being held for the fifth consecutive year, doesn't only focus on showing movies, it also tries to stimulate the Ugandan cinema culture. "For that reason, we started a couple of years ago with organizing workshops for journalists. During those workshops, we don’t only give attention to the history of African cinema, but we also address ways to write good critics. Sometimes I think: please, be a bit more critical on the movies you watch." 

Today  there are a number of journalists who do take film seriously, like Bamuturaki Musinguzi of the East African weekly newspaper. "I have certainly profited of the Amakula workshop", he says. "It is very important that we as critics do a good job. At the moment, there is not enough in-depth coverage of movies. I think that is mainly because the media managers do not appreciate culture enough yet." Musinguzi is positive about the future of Uganda's film industry. "Good reviewers can enable the industry to grow farther, and they can let them know their strengths and weaknesses. You can just see it as a baby crawling."

The Amakula film festival is sponsored by Hivos and DOEN Foundation.