Cathryne Czubek and I (Hugo Perez) have been talking about Wakaliwood's potential as the subject for a documentary for a little while, and finally last summer as Wakaliwood began to have a tipping point moment that was making them an international cult favorite, we decided to jump into production on a feature documentary.
The pure unadulterated joy of cinema expressed in the hyperkinetic Wakaliwood style was exciting to us as filmmakers, and we were excited by the possibility of capturing something of the magic of movies and the dreams that they inspire. There was something about the passion of Isaac and his band of working class actors and crew, as they tried to achieve their dream of making movies and becoming movie stars that drew us in immediately. Especially against the backdrop of the recent Ugandan history they had all lived through – Idi Amin and the civil war that followed. As much as Wakaliwood was trying to make entertainment, they were also using the art of film as a way of dealing with a collective PTSD that they, and the entire country, suffered from. The act of using the violence they lived through, and transforming it through the lens of action movies inspired by Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger was fascinating to us.
Additionally, we believed that, as filmmakers, we could tell a different kind of Africa story from what we felt we usually saw at film festivals. We were becoming more and more discontent with the representations of Africa that focused on poverty and misery through the rubric of a social agenda - what is now known as poverty porn. We felt that there was something condescending in representations of the people of various nations of Africa as victims. In Isaac’s story and that of Wakaliwood, we saw a different kind of narrative – one of empowerment in which Isaac without the help of NGOs or government agencies followed a dream and almost single-handedly created an industry in his slum that employs as many as 100 people. And not only is it a story of empowerment, but it is also a story about subjects with a great sense of humor – an ingredient sadly lacking in contemporary documentary. All of these factors combined made us feel that we could produce a cinematic tale about the love of cinema that deals with a traumatic past and history in an entertaining and funny way. Isaac always says that he wants people to laugh when they watch his films. We wanted to make a documentary that subscribed to his philosophy despite being engaged with the themes of a society emerging from civil war.