TYPE: Documentary Feature
Uganda’s “Tarantino of the slums” Isaac Nabwana overcomes everything to build his action movie studio in the ghetto. Now he faces his biggest challenge yet.
Welcome to Wakaliwood - the Wakaliga village outside of Uganda’s capital Kampala. It is the birthplace of the over-the-top, no-budget action movies produced by maverick Ugandan filmmaker Isaac Nabwana. Isaac survived the dark times of the Idi Amin era and the civil war that followed through soccer, breakdancing, and the action films of his hero Chuck Norris. Ten years ago, Isaac was a brickmaker who woke up one morning and decided to realize his dream of making action movies. With no money and no training, and using homemade prop guns and costumes, Isaac has made forty six films in that time - including Uganda’s first action film WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX.
Fascinated by Isaac’s movie trailers on youtube, film nerd Alan Hofmanis traveled from NYC to Uganda and showed up on Isaac’s doorstep one day. The two hit it off, and by the next day Alan was being chased through the dirt paths of the slums by armed gunmen on a motorbike – as the new villain in the quickly rewritten film that Isaac was working on at the time. Alan moved in with Isaac in the slum and has become Isaac’s producer, protégé, and a leading man in some of Isaac’s recent films. Alan has pursued a dream that now threatens to pull him into the abyss. He has run out of money, lives in a spare room of Isaac’s shanty home, and dreams of being able to take a shower again someday.
Hoping to capitalize on the international cult status of Isaac’s classic WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX, Isaac and Alan embark on a slew of new productions: BAD BLACK, EATEN ALIVE IN UGANDA, CRAZY WORLD, and ENTWETWE - a film about a murderous gourd on a killing spree. Working with Isaac and Alan are a cast of characters that includes: Isaac’s wife Harriet who oversees the books and distribution of their films, Bisaso Dauda, resident weapons master, actor, and stuntman who makes prop guns out of scrap metal and car parts, Bukenya Charles the martial arts master and star who makes a living selling women’s dresses at the Kampala market, and a slew of others.
Our documentary chronicles a year in the life of Wakaliwood as Isaac and Alan deal with the pressure of high expectations spurred by a wave of international attention. When Uganda’s largest television network visits Wakaliwood and offers Isaac a deal to adapt WHO KILLED CAPTAIN ALEX into a television series, it seems to Isaac to be the fulfillment of his dreams. But the deal brings long simmering tensions to the surface, and one wonders: will success spoil Wakaliwood? The stakes are high for both Isaac and Alan who have put everything on the line. One way or another, things will never be the same in Wakaliwood once the dust settles.
We believe in the magic of movies. That quality that captures the imagination and transports people to other worlds, other lives. What first drew us into the Wakaliwood story was the sense of excitement and joy that comes through in their work. They follow a no excuses, just do it philosophy of filmmaking. They aren’t waiting for a budget or a green light from anyone. They decide on a story and they go out and film it. They dream of one day hitting it big, but they relish the moment to moment experience of living out their fantasies in front of a camera. The central theme we are exploring in the film is the pursuit of one’s dreams, in this case making movies, and what happens in real life when you try and live out those dreams.
Additionally, we were really excited by the possibility of telling a very different kind of Africa story. On the festival circuit, we have become all too accustomed to seeing films that focus too much on the misery of Africa. Not that there aren’t worthy social issues to explore, but the films often relegate the people of different African countries they represent as victims. We wanted to tell a story about these filmmakers from Uganda who on their own and without the help of foreign aid or NGOs have bootstrapped together a cottage industry in a slum. Despite the difficulty of their circumstances living in a poor community, they are filled with hope, aspirations, and a huge sense of humor. We want to make a film that captured the sense of joy and humor that Wakaliwood relishes. When we asked Isaac how we should approach making the documentary, he said we should make people laugh not cry. We want to make a documentary that will make people laugh, as a counterpoint to some of the dark contemporary Ugandan history we will be dealing with in the background.
Our approach to the film is based on a three act structure that will interweave the stories of Isaac Nabwana and Alan Hofmanis as they come together to form the collaboration they hope will bring Wakaliwood international success. We’re trying to make use of a more composed, structured frame - rather than a run and gun style. l We’re also incorporating reenactments to tell much of the backstory of Alan and Isaac, particularly Isaac’s childhood and adolescent years. The reenactments will be self-referential and inspired by the frenetic style of the Wakaliwood aesthetic.
By the time the Project Forum takes place, we will be approximately 60-70% done with principal photography and will have a roughcut of the first half of our feature. Our primary goals for participating in the Project Forum are to secure finishing funds, meet potential sales agents, and introduce our film project to distributors and festival programmers.
Cathryne Czubek - Co-Director / Co-Producer
Cathryne Czubek is a New York based director and producer. SCREW YOU CANCER, her award-winning series for Conde Nast Entertainment, was the first digital series ever to be an honoree for the prestigious Television Academy Honor, given to series that use the power of television to bring awareness to important social issues. Her recent work for CNE includes producing and directing digital series for flagship brands Vogue, Glamour, and Vanity Fair. She is the director of the feature documentary A GIRL AND A GUN (First Run Features/Films Transit International) that premiered at the 2012 DOC NYC film festival before a theatrical run. She has received recognition from NYSCA, Women Make Movies, NYWIFT, Paley Center for Media, IFP, Toronto Documentary Forum, among others. Through her production company Salted Media, Cathryne is in development on a number of unscripted branded content series, a new documentary, and a pilot for a single camera scripted TV series. Her work often reflects on the role of women in society and the transformative power that women have to e?ect change. She got her start making pictures with her father in a homemade darkroom at home in Michigan, earned her BA in International Relations at NYU’s College of Arts and Sciences, and earned an MFA in photography and video at the School of Visual Arts.
Hugo Perez - Co-Director / Co-Producer
Hugo Perez is a filmmaker and writer whose work often focuses on his Cuban heritage. Perez’ short film BETTY LA FLACA was the winner of the HBO/NYILFF Short Film Award. His previous short film JULIETA Y RAMON was broadcast as part of the Showtime Latino Filmmaker Showcase. Perez was the recipient of the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation/Tribeca Film Institute Emerging Artist Fellowship in support of his feature screenplay IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. Perez has studied storytelling with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, collaborated with Pulitzer prize-winning novelist William Kennedy, and served as a guest artist for acclaimed theater director and artist Robert Wilson. Perez’ film SEED was part of ITVS/PBS groundbreaking original online science fiction series FutureStates. As a documentary filmmaker, Perez is the recipient of the 2009 Estela Award for Documentary Filmmaking presented by NALIP – the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. Perez is Producer and Director of the feature documentary NEITHER MEMORY NOR MAGIC. The film is narrated by Patricia Clarkson and Viggo Mortensen. Perez is also the Producer and Director of the ITVS funded documentary SUMMER SUN WINTER MOON that had a national PBS broadcast.
Matt Porwoll - DP
Matt Porwoll is a New York-based cinematographer known for his work on CARTEL LAND (2015), CRISIS HOTLINE: VETERANS PRESS 1 (2013), ESCAPE FIRE: THE FIGHT TO RESCUE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE (2012), BY THE PEOPLE: THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA (2009) and GUNNIN; FOR THAT #1 SPOT (2008). He is the winner of the 2015 Sundance US Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography, the 2016 Cinema Eye Honors for Cinematography, and is headed to the 2016 Oscars with nominated film,CARTEL LAND.
Gigi Dement - Producer
Gigi Dement has produced several award-winning films, including GOD OF LOVE winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short- making her the first Filipino in history to produce an Oscar-winning film. She then went on to produce BASTARDS OF YOUNG (which premiered at the Woodstock Film Festival) and the critically acclaimed feature film BABYGIRL which was made in association with Escape Pictures, Samson Films LTD and the Irish Film Board. The film premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival and won top prizes at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival as well as the Jameson Dublin Film Festival. Gigi continues to work with both emerging and established filmmakers; and is developing several projects. Most recently, she has been exploring the world of new media, producing for Conde Nast Entertainment and their associated brands the likes of which include Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Teen Vogue, GQ and Bon Appetit. In addition, she has produced digital content for Target x WhoWhatWear, Canon, Lexus, Sephora, Anna Sui and YouTube. Gigi is a double alumna of New York University's undergraduate and graduate film programs, where she currently holds a faculty position. www.gigidement.com
Amanda Hughes - Editor
After graduating with honors from NYU’s Film and Television program at Tisch, Amanda quickly became the top editor at the boutique post-production house Editional Effects. She continued her career at Bionic and currently works at nutmeg Post. Her clients have included Nickelodoen, MTV, Food Network, ESPN, Noggin, Comedy Central, SciFi, and USA Network. Amanda has editred several documentaries, including the award winning feature NO LOOK PASS by Director Melissa Johnson, A GIRL AND A GUN, by Cathryne Czubek, and CLAIMING OUR VOICE, by Director Jennifer Samuel.
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