Inspiration Film, Film production

The director who makes viral action films for under $200

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Bisaso Dauda isn’t your typical prop maker. Today, he’s building a full-sized helicopter from scrap metal. As he works away in Wakaliga, one of the poorer suburbs just outside of Kampala, Uganda, he tinkers with a diesel engine to help spin the rotors. Next, he’ll build a tank, then a submarine. Welcome to Wakaliwood, the brainchild of self-taught director Isaac Nabwana, who launched his own amateur production company, Ramon Film Productions, in 2005.

Nabwana is 42-years old, and has made over 40 films in the past decade, all on a budget of less than $200. He gets creative. Machine guns are made from scrap metal, bullets carved from wood, and fake blood bursts out of bags made from free condoms sourced at the local health clinic.

It says something about Nabwana’s ambition that in addition to launching his own production company, he’s also coined the name for an entire movie industry. Wakaliwood might not have the resources of Hollywood, the glamor of Bollywood or the reach of Nollywood — it is not even the official film industry in Uganda which is the little-known Ugawood. But Nabwana’s passion for film and his eagerness to teach others is already spawning other film stars. He says:

“Western and Nigerian movies are popular but here we have to teach our people to watch Ugandan films. People don’t believe our films can be good, until we show them. Now even universities are sending their students to do internships here,”

But the road has not been smooth for Nabwana, who went from making bricks to making films. Some of the challenges he faces are common to all filmmakers (raising finance comes top of that list), while others are unique to making movies in a developing country.

Ramon Productions is named after Nabwana’s great grandmothers, Rachel and Monica, as is the first of the three children he has with wife, Harriet Nakasuga. The newest member of that family is American Alan Hofmanis. The program director for the Lake Placid Film Festival saw the Who Killed Captain Alex? trailer in 2011(the clip for the action movie Who Killed Captain Alex? garnered almost 2.4 million views on YouTube). After visiting Nabwana seven times, Hofmanis sold his belongings and moved to Wakaliga in 2014 to help Nabwana realize his vision.

And it seems they are well on their way. A Kickstarter campaign to raise $160 for the film Tebaatusasula: EBOLA exceeded its target by more than 8,000%, bringing in more than $13,000. hg

You can follow Wakaliwood on Twitter @wakaliwood and on Facebook.