Tag Archives: Nabwana I.G.G.


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Once Upon a Time in Uganda can currently be rented on VOD.


DIRECTED BY: Cathryne Czubek

FEATURING, Alan Hofmanis, Harriet Nabwana

PLOT: A disillusioned American film programmer travels to Uganda to find Nabwana I.G.G., the director whose trailers for homemade action movies like Who Killed Captain Alex? have recently gone viral.

Still from Once Upon a Time in Uganda (2021)

COMMENTS: Wakaliwood seeped into the West’s collective consciousness slowly. The earliest fans boarded the train after seeing the viral Who Killed Captain Alex? trailer on YouTube in 2010 (five years before the finished movie would see the light of day). The first time I can clearly remember hearing about Nabwana I.G.G. was reading the description of Bad Black in the Fantasia Festival’s 2017 program (a screening subsequently given a brief-but-enthusiastic writeup by Giles Edwards).

As it turns out, my interest was indirectly sparked by Alan Hofmanis, Once Upon a Time in Uganda‘s NYC film programmer who, reeling from a devastating breakup and fascinated by Who Killed Captain Alex?, spirited himself away to the slums of Kampala in search of Nabwana. Hofmanis devoted the next several years to helping Nabwana promote his Wakaliwood output to film festivals around the world, while occasionally appearing in front of the camera in the recurring role of the muzungu [white man] who gets beat up—or in the case of one cannibal movie, who gets feasted on.

Creating a story from this material, instead of a mere talking heads doc, requires devoting a good deal of time to Alan and his struggles. (The heroic opening shot of Alan standing on a mountaintop cost more by itself than three or four Nabwana feature films). The focus on Alan is a bit unfortunate, because honestly, although basically a good guy, he isn’t the most compelling character. That honor doesn’t even go to Nabwana, the ex-bricklayer who is much more grounded in reality than his crazy-ass filmic output would lead one to believe, or to his appealingly supportive wife and collaborator Harriet. No, the real stars here are the movies themselves, lightning-paced barrages of kung fu, over-the-top firefights, model helicopters wrecking CGI skyscrapers, and a narrator constantly screaming and pumping up the movie in the background. (In fact, the one crew member whom we should have seen much more of is VJ Emmie, who provides the most unique element of Wakaliwood films: the running narration. Emmie’s commentary is the film’s own pre-supplied MST3K track: during one desperate scene, he moans, “I just want some good news.” A character immediately enters the scene: “Sir, I have some bad news.” Emmie gets a short interview and does his spiel over the opening credits, but deserved more coverage).

Despite its best efforts, though, Uganda is a talking-heads/behind-the-scenes doc, with only a thin story arc (which you might have already guessed). There are a couple of humorously inventive moments early on: director Czubek recreates Alan’s first encounter with a Wakaliwood actor as chase scene, and a fight scene suddenly breaks out in the background of one interview. But most of the time, this professionally put-together doc approaches the material from a conventional angle—so that Wakaliwood’s more delirious approach to moviemaking stands out in relief. Uganda serves as a perfect appetizer for those considering pigging out on a Wakaliwood banquet, or as a treasure trove of context for those who already have a seat at the trough. Either way, you’ll come away believing that this unassuming Kampala ghetto does indeed produce da best of da best action movies!!!!

For low-budget filmmakers, Uganda is simultaneously inspiring, intimidating, and depressing. Inspiring for how easy Nabwana makes it look to create a movie from scratch; intimidating because of just how much better he is at it than you will ever be; and depressing because, despite making 20+ movies and racking up millions of YouTube views, he hasn’t made a dime (at least, not at the time this doc was released; I’d wager he’s turned a small profit since).

You can catch Nabwana’s most popular films (and other goodies) on YouTube via the official Wakaliwood channel.

Legendary producer Ben Barenholz had directed a short and currently unavailable Wakaliwood documentary profiling Nabwana, simply entitled Wakaliwood, in 2012 (before Captain Alex was even completed!) Hofmanis co-produced.


“Director Cathryne Czubek and co-director Hugo Perez present this unlikely creative inspiration for Nabwana’s work with real depth, shedding more light on what some may dismiss as explosion-laden nonsense… Once Upon a Time In Uganda recognizes both the personal importance and creative passion that lie within even the most ridiculous art.”–Lisa Laman, The Spool (contemporaneous)


7/26 : Throwback Thursday …I Mean, Wednesday

Still from Eternal Evil (AKA The Blue Man)Tucked far out of the way of anything else at the Fantasia Festival is the “Cinematheque Quebecoise” theater. After forty minutes of searching and using the secret knock to get through the door, I was finally able to get seated for Eternal Evil (AKA The Blue Man). Directed in the mid-’80s by George Mihalka, Eternal Evil tells a dark tale of murder and astral projection. Our hero Paul Sharpe spends a lot of time with his shirt unbuttoned, and wonders why those close to him keep ending up dead. The answer stems from an interview he did with an elderly couple who claimed to achieve immortality by shifting to new bodies when their current vessels had worn out. A cult hit in its native Canada, the ’80s cheesiness was fortunately outweighed by the interesting story and clever premise. Not really something to Certify, though.

Poster for God Tole Me To (1976)That honor might go to ‘s 1976 cop-drama/alien-abduction picture, God Told Me To. A series of mass murders take place in downtown New York City, only connected by one thing: the perpetrators informing a policeman after the fact that they did because “God told [them] to.” Police detective Peter Nicholas is convinced there’s something to their confessions and digs deeper, discovering both an ominous entity at the heart of the matter as well as some strange truth about his own nature. Quite Certifiable, with one of the “Three Weird Things” necessarily being “glowing furnace-room messiah.”

7/27 : “Well, all the movies can’t be good. You’ve got to expect that once in a while.”

I suppose I really shouldn’t complain. It took over two weeks for Fantasia to give me a swing-and-a-miss evening out. I had high hopes for the Filipino Town in a Lake, Jet Leyco’s (ever-so-slightly) bizarre crime drama concerning the murder of one girl and the concurrent disappearance of another. The first hour is a humdrum, if capable, drama surrounding the mystery: reporters rush to the small town as the news “trends”, politicians work hard to take advantage of the tragedy, and, as is so often the case, the police have no real leads. It takes over an hour for something weird to happen—and right on its heels, the movie ends with a “twist”. An out-of-the-blue, confounding, and not terribly inspired “twist”. Though my goal here is to find new movies that are out of the ordinary, I can’t help but think that Town in a Lake would have been better as a straight-up procedural. As it stands, it’s as if got particularly lazy and, in Continue reading 2017 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: MOVIES & MAYHEM IN MONTREAL, VOL. 3