ONCE UPON A TIME IN UGANDA (2021) reviewed by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Blue Finch Film Releasing. Cinema 5th September
We all know Hollywood and Bollywood but do you know the films from Wakaliwood – unlikely…
In Uganda action movies are hugely popular – especially productions featuring Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Rambo and the like.
This affectionate and fascinating documentary follows the story of a brick-maker in a small Ugandan village who, inspired by the films he has enjoyed, decides to make his own. One Nabwana I.G.G., known as Isaac, saves up enough money to buy a small video camera and along with his wife begins shooting outrageous, super low budget action flicks – learning as he goes – in the slum of Wakaliga. He involves his family and neighbours to create a community dedicated to making movies for as little as $200 using whatever they have to hand to create camera rigs and props and editing on a small laptop.
Meanwhile New Yorker Alan Hofmanis, who has worked in the film industry, first sees the craziness via a trailer for Who Killed Captain Alex on YouTube, and makes the life-changing decision to up-sticks and track down this movie maverick just to meet him. Before long he is drawn into Isaac’s world and he decides to stay to both help out, even appearing in the productions, but also to try and bring worldwide attention to this unassuming creator.
Director Cathryne Czubek (along with co-writer Amanda Hughes) has crafted a heartwarming tale of triumph over adversity, the joy of filmmaking for its own sake, the passion of one man and a community but also a story of bruised egos and reconciliation, as Alan tries his hardest to take things to the next level and have a larger audience experience what he has found – but at what cost?
Of course if you watch this and immediately want to see the films featured you can, but don’t expect some kind of retrospective box set on Blu-ray (unless one of the boutique labels really wants to go out on a limb). YouTube is your friend and a quick search will reveal the goods.
Steve Kirkham