‘I went to Uganda not to work with them, but because I wanted to find them and see the film’~ Alan Hofmanis
Alan Hofmanis talks about his association with Wakaliwood- an industry emerging in the slum of Uganda’s capital Kampala; that relies entirely upon the creative ambition of the people of that region, and a carjack for a tripod!
How did you do find out about Wakaliwood?
So the village has been making genre films, action, horror for 14 years! For a long time. They went viral back in 2010, they had millions of views in just 90 seconds. And they don’t know how like they don’t even know how it got online. It was a friend of a friend through a university in Kenya they think. It was just natural. I saw it later, in 2011. Someone just showed me the trailer on an iPhone and everyone was laughing but I was not laughing. Like yeah, it’s funny you know but I thought it was serious. I thought it was something special.
What was it that was special about the film?
It’s obvious there is no money, but you know if you don’t have money you shoot a love story, a family reunion etc. You don’t make a war film with helicopters and 130 commandos, obviously, you don’t do that trying to be serious. I could not find any info on the films. People didn’t even know if it was real. They liked the trailers but no one knew anything. No one knew if the films were ever made. They thought maybe it’s a comedy show from Nigeria, you know there was no information. My background is production, but also I’m a festival director. In other words, I know production but also I know audiences and exhibition. I was kind of obsessed with this thing and that night I bought a plane ticket.
Just like that? You bought a ticket and left overnight?
You know this sounds crazy but not to me! For years, I was in production like cinematography, sound mixing etc. I know how films are made. In the festivals, what you are trained to do is when you see a film, you break it into two, what are they trying to say and how are they doing it. That’s how you look at a film, especially emerging talents. Normally what you have, is pretty much well-made but isn’t saying anything. What you hope for is something that’s very interesting but is shady. This was off the charts man! It’s so completely ambitious. It’s a massive production and it has this crazy energy, it’s really loud, so to me it means that there is a director, someone is yelling at people. It’s so big and organized so to me this means, of course, there is a finished film. I had all these questions that made no freaking sense! I went to Uganda not to work with them, but because I wanted to find them and see the film.
Did you always want to end up working with Wakaliwood?
So, I found them and you know it was these children who live in slums. There is no plumbing. The electricity at that time was maybe three days a week, now it’s maybe five. We started talking, that’s when I got to know everything. He has to build the computers. The tripod is a carjack. It’s a team of 130 people who work together for years. They are making films for 7 years and I was the very first fan who found them! I did not realize but just me coming was a big boost for them and it was to me. I said I want to work with them. I’m not an actor but it’s fun man! This the first time I have acted. Even though my background has always been films; I never acted, I never produced, I have never directed, I have never written.
What is the biggest thing you get out of all this? What is the impact of Wakaliwood?
When Isaac (the director) was young he loved Robert Rodriguez. It’s obvious you know, El Mariachi, action-comedy made for no money in the local language. What I’m convinced of is that there are going to be kids, in a slum in South America or wherever, who are going to see these films. They will recognize instantly the conditions they were made in. And in 20 years we’ll all know those kids’ names. I’m convinced. That’s what the impact is going to be and that’s what I fight for.