Cindy Magara on The Art of Filmmaking

  #360Mentor is a continuation of the #40DayMentor series. In this episode, Robert Kabushenga (RK) speaks to  Cindy Magara (CM) on The Art of Filmmaking.

RK: Cindy, welcome to #360Mentor. I cannot wait to hear and learn from you.

CM: It is my pleasure to be here too.

RK: Who is Cindy Magara?

CM: I am a mother of three. A wife to one. A lecturer of Literature and Film at Makerere University. A filmmaker.

RK: Are you a Ugandan?

CM: Interesting question. When I was in Australia, people used to think I am Fijian. Some of our Caucasian people are naïve. When they see you wearing a wig, they think it is your hair.  I used to introduce myself as an African. Not Ugandan. Because all that people out there know is Idi Amin. Yet so much has happened since Amin.

RK: I mean, the guy has been dead longer than he ruled us.

CM: In my own view, if you ask me, I would say I am African. South Africans think I am one of them.

RK: True. You look like a Xhosa.

CM: Not Zulu? In Kenya, they think I’m Kisi because they have the name Magara.

RK: But even your skin texture says so.

CM: Even the Kikuyu greet me in Kikuyu. In Rwanda, I almost got insulted. I went to buy flowers and a young man talked to me in Kinyarwanda and he couldn’t imagine that I was not understanding what he was saying.

RK: He became upset, right?

CM: Yes. I just told him, I come from another kingdom. In Uganda, I can look like any Ugandan.

RK: You know for me, what is extremely important is the question of identity. Not in the paroquial sense of trying to hold onto prejudices and all that, no. But for the sense of anchoring. For instance, one of the things I have done with my children is to give them only surnames. If they ever want another, they will give it to themselves. For me, it is one way of announcing to the world that you belong to this clan therefore, if you meet your clanmates you know what to do.

CM: Do Bakiga have clan names?

RK: Yes they do. It’s just that they were distorted. The distortion comes with colonisation. Yes  we have. The names follow a pattern that follows events. But we have also taken the biblical thing too far. We have even given names out of the bible and we have forgotten ourselves. For instance, in my family, most of my uncles and aunts have all these biblical names. But when we went back to check, we found that we had very beautiful names. That is why I’m asking you, who is Cindy Magara? Where on the African continent does she come from? As the baganda say, bakuzika wa? Where are you buried?

CM: I see where you are coming from and I think I have the same view about it. When I went to Makerere to do my undergraduate, I realised I was too English. I have two English names; Evelyn Cindy. I have a maiden name that not many people know. I am Kyosaba. It means “whatever you pray for”.

RK: The Bakiga have Koshaba.

CM: Then, Magara is a family name, you realize you cannot change these names. Sometimes you wish you could change them. Some people use them dramatically. You find someone called Kirabo Gift, Suubi Hope.

RK: I have heard of Peace Busingye.

CM: Yet, our Nigerian brothers take names like Peace/ Businge names and then they add a clan name. That is why you find someone called Ngozi somebody, Chisomeone. Chi is to do with God.

RK: I didn’t realise that.

CM: They have really decolonised themselves. But to answer your question without beating  around the bush, I am a Munyoro Kaswa. Do you know what that means?

RK: I was about to ask. How is that different from Munyoro Kati?

CM: Omunyoro Kati is a munyoro lady. Any lady is called kati. You can even say a muganda kati. Because it is rude to just say munyoro.

RK: So it’s like saying, Mukiga kazi, Muhima kazi, Muganda kazi ?

CM: Anha. So Omunyoro Kaswa means Munyoro 311. Both parents are Banyoro. So you can say I am a Munyoro Kati.

RK: One or two of the movies you have done explores the Bunyoro area.

CM: Actually one of them auditioned in Bunyoro. It is in Runyoro. And I must tell you that the response of the people when they saw their language being spoken on the big screen, they were like “we’ve been watching ki-nigeria, now this is ki-nyoro.” “Cindy oli munyoro maali.” They were so excited to see their language on TV and it went on to play on dstv.

But ‘‘the story that has caught fire” like we say in Ugandan English is the series I am working on that is about the Ugandan kingdoms. It was inspired by Kabalega. I wanted to tell the incredible story of Kabalega.

RK: First of all, how many series are they?

CM: They are three seasons of the same story. In my research of Kabalega I realised he was an interesting character. First and foremost, his mother was from Bulega which is in Congo. 

RK: Wait, that’s the famous, Akaana…?

CM: …Kabalega. Kaana kabaganda, kabanyoro. Because that’s how we account.

RK: Wow! That I didn’t know.

CM: That’s how we talk. And that was all part of Congo. By the time our brothers sat in Berlin to divide the country, three quarters of Bunyoro remained in congo.

RK: Oookay. The physical unit of the kingdom of Bunyoro Kitara

CM: Yes, who even spoke the same language on the other side. So Kabalega’s mother was from Bulega.

RK: Remind me, who was Kabalega’s father?

CM: Kamurasi

RK: So Kamurasi had a wife from Bulega. 

CM: More like a concubine. He had an official wife. And that is a very interesting story. That a child of the concubine becomes the king. He grew up knowing he could not become a king. He was not even interested in becoming a king. Just the childhood of Kabalega can make a very interesting movie.

And then when you research further, you cannot have Kabalega without Mwanga. You cannot talk about Kabalega without Kyebambe of Tooro. Because remember, when Kabalega took over, he wanted to expand his kingdom. And Tooro had broken away like 40 years before Kabablega so he started by bringing them back. You know what ignited him to go and attack Tooro?

RK: No.

CM: They beat his cow, Bihigo. In Tooro, in Kyegegwa, that is where there was the royal ranch. Even when he had broken away, Kabalega’s cows were grazed from there.

RK: Wait, is that correct?

CM: Yes. He was like they’ve beaten my cow?  He went and attacked them.

RK: Who was the king then?

CM: Kyebambe II. The 1st had died.

RK: We need to leave this story alone, we may not finish.

CM: This story is a movie in itself.

RK: Exactly. Could you find out about Abarusura? Is he the one who put together that force?

CM: No. The force was already there but he organised it into a modern army. He had like 12 battalions. He had CIDs, the navy… you cannot imagine the level of order these guys had. He had ababogora the snippers of today.  He had chiefdoms under him and what he did was to have an army under each of those chiefdoms. When he became a king, he did away with all these and mobilised one army. That is how he managed not to have breakaways. And because of that, that’s how Bunyoro kept reducing. Sons would declare themselves kings and their aging fathers would not go to fight them. That is why Kabalega abolished and established a standing army.

RK: I want to ask you, in your mind, how did you arrive at saying this is a really good idea. We all see mundane stuff every day. How do you judge and say this is a good idea?

CM: Of course with my background, I studied literature. Even at Makerere, I was among the first people to study cinema by a very interesting person, Prof. Donomic Dipio,a nun. In fact, I want to do a documentary about her. She is very interesting. My mentor of film is a nun which is a very interesting start of a story.

RK: A Ugandan nun?

CM: Yes. She is a professor of film. With her veil and all. That’s how you arrive at a good story. The other day I was watching a filmmaker who said a good story begins at the wow!

RK: How do you arrive at the wow?

CM: For example the nun. So many people used to ask me how I became a filmmaker. I would go looking for funding and they would ask me are you sure you are not a crook? Do Ugandans study film? So you would have to tell the whole story; I studied film at Makerere. I was taught by a nun. A nun? They would ask. But that is how stories come about.

For me studying literature and maybe picking what my professor thought then about what was really acceptable. There is a small difference between literature and film. Before there is a film, there is a story. There is the literature.

RK: The written script.

CM: Yes, the script. We felt in the Literature department that the  students of literature are the first people to teach how to write scripts. They will write the scripts and then the filmmakers will have the material to produce. And what happens in our case, everybody wants to be a storyteller yet they don’t have the skill to distill a story. What is a good story? What benefit is it? Like someone may ask you, what benefit is Kabalega’s story now? How relevant is it today?

When I was doing my undergraduate, I only wanted to be a writer. I did Arts in Arts. At Makerere they called the course Bachelor of Being Around Around. We’re just escorting the serious students. My father had wanted me to study another course but this is what I wanted. I wanted to study literature. The conversation would be, what are you going to do with literature? There is Goretti Kyomuhendo, good enough she is a Munyoro kati. I would go to femrite and present my poems and short stories there. Then in my 3rd year, Prof Dipio began to teach film. We were the first class. She had struggled convincing the guys at senate that she was going to teach cinema.

So when they gave her a go-ahead, a few of us enrolled to study the course. I was so fascinated by the connection between cinema and literature. Especially African literature. Because as a writer, you want to improve your society.

Similarly, when you look at the history of African cinema,it’s significance with African literature. I decided that I was going to make movies. So I got a job as an assistant film lecturer mainly because of my films. I had gone out and practised what I had studied. This being an African university, we were doing a lot of African literature. We did the epic story of Sundiata. That got me thinking, we have other epic characters. What about the epic characters from our land? And the students I was tutoring then knew they were being tutored by a celebrity of sorts. Just knowing that they are being taught by a filmmaker made them happy. They were asking me, “… when are you doing another film?” but I had other commitments, I was doing a Masters’ degree, and tutoring and being a mother. I promised I would do that upon my return. To tell you the truth, I have slept with this story for a very long time. I have been with it for the last ten years.

RK: Most people think that you can just pick up a camcorder or any form of camera and just start filming. And here you are telling us you have taken 10 years of research, help me. How does that process work by arriving at sufficient material for you to say that this is it?

CM: First of all you should be convinced about what you are doing. I was convinced many years ago while at Makerere in that lecture room when we were studying the epic of Sundiata. I was convinced that we had our own epics that we could learn about. I was convinced about it and I started doing research. People take research for granted.

Rk: They don’t take it for granted, they just don’t do it at all.

CM: That’s true, the other day, I introduced my mentor to the team I am working with. It’s titled “Mr Conquer or Die”. She said I am glad you are doing this. I have heard  a lot of people saying they want to do a lot of our history. I am glad at least they are going to have someone who appreciates the value of research. She took it for granted that by my background, I should know the value of research.

RK: You mean it is a very deeply engaging intellectual discipline?   

CM: What makes a movie is the script. The story.

RK: And the script has to have rich material.

CM: Exactly.

RK: And to get the rich material, you have to research it.

CM: And then you choose what you want and what you don’t want.

RK: You are talking about epics and one of them that has stayed with me since I watched it in the 90s is that of Shaka Zulu. And like you say, we have our own Shaka Zulus here.

CM: True, and they are many. From that time, I started to watch only historicals. I took leave. I spent four years away to do my Phd. And the only movies I would watch were those I was studying and only epics and only historical series. Recently, I was watching The Crown. I am teaching myself to think for society. It is you who tells the society this is right, this is wrong, sadly.

RK: There is a guy from West Africa, Ousamna Sembene. I used to watch his stories and I wish I understood the language.

CM: He’s great. He is the grandfather of African cinema.

RK: I used to assume that colonists came one day and forced everyone to submit to them. I read the history of Karagwe and I was surprised at how long the Germans had been living in Northern Tanzania and Rwanda before they overthrew the kings. I want to take you back to your own history as Cindy and ask for experiences or background that developed your love for storytelling in the literary sense.

CM: I can’t tell.

RK: Let me give you an example. At one point I used to do radio broadcasts and here I am having conversations with you. In our family, growing up, we didn’t have television, we spent time talking to each other. There was always a question on who was the best storyteller and who was the best orator. And there is no gift for guessing who the best was. I bring this up because sometimes when people are reflecting on the direction they want to go, you then go back to your past.

CM: My answer is probably going to be around that. And this is something I also discovered in my research. My PhD was on the aesthetics of East African cinema. I wanted to see; what is this style that we run in our movies? I had a list of filmmakers from the region that I wanted to study. This was informed by what I had studied. The most influence is from our oral tradition. And Africans are natural storytellers. And we are orate vis a vis written. I also found that when I left the country, you find that a Mzungu would rather just text what they want to say as opposed to a Ugandan who wants to tell you what they want to say.

For them they want to text, calling them would come first with asking whether it is okay.

RK: There was one tragic incident. Everybody had pictures of the assaciantion of Felix Kaweesi but people were still calling our office to find out whether it was true. They wanted to  hear it.

One of the things you’ve said reminds me, Africans would sit around the pot of alcohol.

CM: Even our traditional bars are round.

RK: To facilitate conversations. Those guys, people ist in a line and face the wall. They don’t even talk to each other.

CM: For me, one of my uncles did literature and I have been surrounded by sotires. I studied literature from secondary school to university. Literature, in a way, teaches you to be analytical. You learn to look at things differently and you are always critiquing characters. It sharpens the way you behave. At university I was studying something I loved. There is a course we studied called oral literature where you are encouraged to dig deep into your oral stories. Some people even have to do research on that. For me, I had to write a film. With a little bit of push, you end up doing things like this.

RK: I remember back at my former workplace, one of the fascinating things was the setting up of Bukedde TV, we had to do translated movies. What do you think of that innovation?

CM: It goes back to us as a people who love oral literature. I remember a conversation I had with Solaire back in the day about the Hostel. I asked her to find some philosophical thoughts about it.

RK: Wait a minute, how important is philosophy in delivering the message? Why is it such an important element?

CM: Before you even start to write. Deep down you know that if you don’t say something the world is going to miss out on something. Or that it would have a fundamental effect on the world. That’s the importance of key messages. If you look at Ngugi for example, you can see his ideology in his work. Same thing with Sembene. They make ordinary people do the work. they bring them to the forefront. And they both present the people we see as the elite failing to do things.

For example, from Sembene’s film called Hala, we got independence. Hala means importance which he uses as a symbol. He uses it as a title of a story that he adapts into a play. Here is a Haji who marries a third wife and on that night, he fails to function. This image is symbolic of a leader and people around him. The common line is that “Haji has not flowered the bride.” The movie uses such a small concept to show you that we got independence but our leaders are important but they have not made us achieve independence.

RK: Let me see whether I get you clearly, Cindy. There are many ways, many of them seemingly mundane and subtle that you can use to deliver a powerful message.

CM: Look at Animal Farm,

RK: I want to go back to electile dysfunction. You may think you are dealing with a human issue yet you are talking about the stillbirth of African independence.

CM: As a creative, when you think about the important things that you must deliver, how are you going to deliver them? What are the factors? That way they get to publish their work without being censored.

A writer should have that most significant message.

RK: A significant message that you want to deliver on one part and a very creative way to deliver it.

CM: I will tell you this. I was commissioned to make a movie about the electoral process in uganda. I called it Fair Play. It came at a time I was so busy with my Masters and I bounced it off a colleague. We sat and brainstormed on what to do. Ugandans don’t want documentaries. They don’t want to be told what to do. It’s so mundane. We used the concept of football. The movie is titled ‘Fair Play’ in a random village X. A politician comes around with his henchman. He tells them to stop playing football from that pitch. We are bringing investors to use the pitch. That way a conflict arises. And they chase the politician away. On their way home  they hear over the radio that there is going to be a local council election which will coincide with the MP by-election. The footballers sit and plan on how to vote and evict this councillor out. So they ask, do you have a card? Can you vote? Are You registered? The electoral process is taught that way.

RK: Without you having to come directly and bore them

CM: Yes. In fact it went on to air on Africa Magic and people from other countries enjoyed it. Along the way the competitor of the contestant comes along. In Uganda we embraced multiparty politics a couple of years ago. But do we know what it is? What does it mean to have to support two different political parties, do we have to fight over that?

RK: One of the tragedies of my family is that my grandfather was a supporter of UPC and my grandmother UPM. The villagers who were fellow UPC supporters came and helped my grandfather chase away his wife. She was away for about 3 years and it was later after my grandfather got a stroke and there was no one else to look after him that they brought her back. But the biggest irony of them all, two years later, Museveni was in power and it was  her time to shine. She was the most powerful person in the world.

But, I want you to tell me about people like Mariam Ndagire and Ashraf Ssemwogerere. I ask because we assume that people who have to tell stories must be of a certain sophisticated type of people. Tell me

CM: It is about them being real and having depth of what to say?

RK: Stop there. What is depth?

CM: In this context, depth is where you have an idea you are very passionate about that you want to tell the world. You research about it for example, when we wanted to create Fair Play, we wanted to find out the basic day to day conflicts people have during the electoral process. Someone will find their poster defaced and they will fight over that. People fight over colours, tshirts. After doing your research you choose a unique way of how you are going to present it.

As a filmmaker, observe society. That is why I use the word philosophy. See. If you don’t spend time with that subject you want to poetry you are going to be shallow. You will even become predictable. Take people from the nagle they know to one they least expect.

RK: About Ashraf.

CM: Asharaf is a person who is very passionate about telling stories. I used one of his films, Mukajjanga for my masters.

He is a natural. He gets professional writers to give his story that touch that will make it last forever. For example we cite Jonathan Swift’s Animal Farm. Ashraf has that natural factor to tell a story. He must have grown up from a rich storytelling background.

RK: Here I was a business executive looking for content for the TV, and then there was Ashraf, seemingly chaotic and I was wondering how can this guy even make a movie. But now that I look back, I appreciate and respect him.

Let me ask you then, why do we fail to capture our own stories?

CM: We fail because we copy a lot.

RK: Why does this story follow me everywhere? For over 140 days of 360 Mentor, people saying this?

CM: Think of how we invented VJs. We created VJs, from the micro level, we are the only people in East Africa with VJs. But on a macro level, it is because we lack creativity. We don’t have our own movies to sell. What we do,we get other people’s movies and retell them. Film is audio-visual, people have to see it. You can’t tell them what they can already see. What becomes very creative is that this person goes beyond the movie and adds his own opinion.

RK: The concept you are talking about here. The lack of originality. Someone does not know what to bring on the table, the person tries to imitate?

CM: What event ignited the Ugandan cinema like Ashraf were Nigerian movies. But no one had bought the rights to those movies. That is cheating. People even went ahead and created their own versions of these movies without the permission from the owners.

RK: I was deeply involved in the making of Bukedde TV and we wanted to find an entry. At the time TV was dominated by WBS and NTV. I couldn’t outdo NTV, My entry point was language. When we did that, the reaction of the other players was laughter. When they discovered 9 months later that I was laughing all the way to the bank, everybody started coming out with a Bukedde type of TV, but the question for you there is, how do you stand out but have an appeal?

CM: I think it’s by understanding your audience. Ugandans generally like comedy. They want things to make them laugh.

RK: There is a reason for that. In the 80s, comedy became the main method of delivering serious information without being killed. Also, life was so hard.

CM: Yes. comedy was the way people could entertain themselves. It’s like living here in Uganda, horror happens every day on the street. Bukedde news is a horror movie, when you make a Ugandan horror film, mimicking a Hollywood horror film, you can hardly get an original horror film.

That is why I said know your audience, the message will stand the test of time. People will appreciate your art. Let people who want to make comedy also be. When I started out as someone who had studied the cinescape of Uganda, I decided I would only do afro stories and children’s cinema.

RK: I am glad you brought that up, what are the different storytelling genres?

CM: We have dramas, social dramas. Then series dramas.  Comedies. These days you find a combination of genres.

RK: Apart from my friend from Wakaliga. Wakaliwood.

CM: I love him. He has created a niche for himself. That is one other thing/ find a niche and focus on it. The guy can make an action film with very little money.

Personally, I want to focus on history. Our history is not told. Even afro history could take up different genres. Everyone can choose theirs. It’s like in literature, Susan Kiguli wrote about Idi Amin through poetry.

RK: Talk about someone who has so much, that’s Susan!

CM: And of course as a poet, there are so many ways to present a story. In literature, you can use prose, even in prose you can use a short story. It is a short story but very hard to write. Poetry means you are going to condense. It means every word has to be important. you have to be keen and observant. You represent what someone else will put in a novel and put it on one page in  two stanza poems.

RK: I struggle with Soyinka.

CM: For Soyinka, it is his diction. The man knows more English than the English themselves. 

RK: It’s only when you interact with those people’s works that you realise how much thought goes into their work.

CM: I remember we read Kongi’s harvest in high school, and by the time you are done with it you are thinking so deeply about politics.

Then we read Darkness at Noon, The Lion and the Jewel.

RK: I am a Ngugist. I have read all his works. But the Grain of wheat has stayed with me all this while.

CM: He is such a good story teller. His stories are so balanced.

RK: Then, let me ask, how do you balance that as a passion in order to deliver a really really good job and then be able to meet your everyday needs as a human being.

CM: You know that’s my story with film making. When I finished university, I was extremely excited about making films. I had analysed that film is audio visual. Literature is literally which means someone must be able to read and write. For a film, you just have to watch even if you don’t understand the language. So I decided film was the way I was going to tell my stories. At the time, I was seeing myself as the philosopher. I wanted to practice whatever I had studied.

At that age after university, you have  ideas. A lot of them, so I didn’t even think of the cost. Five months later it hit me, I had nothing. I needed to get work done. I had to ask people to come on board pro bono. I wanted to have the best quality film. By the way, my film was the first Ugandan film to show at Cineplex and on DSTV.

I went to corporate companies to ask them for support. I was such a tiny girl and they could not believe me. Secondly, there was the technical element. We had studied all these things, now I needed to put them into action. Guess what, I wrote, directed and produced. I had to get a camera person. At the time, the available camera people were those who used to cover weddings.

RK: And music videos.

CM: Even at the time, music videos were so pathetic. To be honest, I got this camera guy and started directing him on what to do. My father had bought me a camera but it couldn’t even film. So this guy had a good camera and he allowed me to work with me. Trouble came with the angles and shots. In the middle of a wide shot, the guy would zoom in. Meanwhile, at that time, you don’t even have a monitor.

RK: Oh wow! How difficult can life be!

CM: I know! Remember we already lacked equipment. We were using the usual microphones, so when they moved a lot, there was a lot of creaking. In the end, the pictures were so beautiful. By the way, it is the one that got me my job at Makerere. I tried. But the sound was terrible. We had to go back and shoot it again.

We had a lot of issues, from technical to finances. As for finances, it is another story. Coca cola allowed to give me drinks on set. By the way, I was very aggressive. I walked everywhere. I filmed at my father’s rice mills, which he still had all the time. Then I used my house. I remember when it made it to DSTV, they came to interview me at my small house on Mawanda Road.

I really tried to get whatever I could from wherever I could. The late BMK gave me his hotel for one of our sets. My film was upclass and I had not thought about that. that most stores about Africa are about the poor, the ordinary but we have also got other stories. The well-to-do. That’s what my film was about. It was about an accountant who did not have a husband. And you know our society, and at the time I was in my 20s. You know when you are in your 20s, 35 looks so old. Now that I look back in my 30s, I laugh about it.

So she doesn’t have a husband but has money. Every time she receives a wedding meeting text message, she gets angry. Her best friend who’s married suggests that she can get her a lad from the village to make her pregnant. She meets this handsome guy at a high end office that she moves out with. In the end, she finances her own wedding. This is a story I had heard from somewhere. Be careful when you tell creatives your stories.

RK: Because they could end up on the screen.

CM: Yes. But I had to change it a bit so it could communicate.

RK: If you were to talk to a 23 year old Cindy who is very idealistic like you were back then, knowing what you know now, what would you say?

CM: Maybe I would fail to take off. I am so critical and I want things to be so perfect. Sometimes you need that naivety of youth. Otomere butomera. As students, Prof Dipio brought us a Congolese film maker who told us; you’ve got a lot of stories to tell. There’s the ideal, but we want to tell our stories. Africa has good stories and we have to tell them.

Sembene’s movies are not the best.

RK: Even those Nigerian movies before the big money came in.

CM: Because the people who were making those movies were prospective businessmen. They just needed a selling story, got actors who would make it sell and in a few days, it would be ready.

But also theirs is a different country. Their society is different from ours.

RK: In light of all those complications, how did you pull through?

CM: I reached out to so many NGOs. And by the way, I made money. At the premiere, people bought corporate tables and tickets and that got me going. Surprisingly, I had UBC sponsor my adverts. We had a deal, they would sponsor me and I would give them the film thereafter.  

RK: This is what you are telling me.

The sheer amount of determination and innovation that went in marketing possibly got you the tickets sales in the end.

CM: Yes. it worked for me but it is a problem. In Uganda we  don’t have distributors. I would make a good movie, bring it to a businessperson like you, you do the marketing. But here I am, I had written, directed and produced. I even had to appear in one scene, never mind I don’t like acting but the actor didn’t come and I had to step in.

It is good that we develop an industry where there is a producer, a writer and a marketer.

RK: I am looking at a person with a dream, and wants to make her dream come true, how far are you willing to go?

CM: Then, it means that for you to achieve your dream you must be as flexible as you can be.

RK: Maybe not flexible per say but adaptable.

CM: Yes, so that you can know your market very well. So that you are able and adjust according to the needs. Of course things have changed now. The challenges a filmmaker faces today are so different from what I faced. Maybe today, there’s more awareness.

I had a successful premiere of my first movie and I decided to take it country wide. So I took it to Entebbe, I got to the venue and people asked “ where are the actors?” then it occurred to me that our people don’t know the difference between drama and film. It would be futile for me to continue going to other places. I had to tell UBC to stop.

Even at Makerere at the halls of residence, the students did not know the difference between a drama and a film. If I was going to do film as a business, I had to think twice. It was not making economic sense.

 I took the film downtown to the movie sellers that side and the best they were willing to give me was UGX 1 million. It was in English with two lines of Runyoro. But when I wasn’t in the film, I couldn’t speak Luganda and I realised this was a different market. I decided to sell it to DSTV and to the national theatre. I recovered my money.

My second film was commissioned when I was already teaching at campus. There, I was able to get a team. I had the money. I sold it to DSTV too.

My third film. I got a salary loan to have it produced.

RK: From your experience, what would you have done differently?

CM: I would have made much more. I  would make more movies because I had the energy. but at the same time I was married. I got married in 2007 having graduated in 2006. For me film was a job. Then my  professor must have been impressed. She called me to her office and she asked me;  what do you want to do?

I thought she knew I was already making movies. I told her all I wanted was to make movies.

She then told me, all filmmakers are teachers. you teach the world. And in a more real sense, most filmmakers are lecturers. She asked me to apply and start teaching film. And I am so proud of it. Once I got to Makerere, I asked her to promise me that teaching wouldn’t derail me from making movies.

RK: What would you say to your 13 year old daughter?

CM: my daughter is my exact photocopy in terms of character. I am also a firstborn and I am fairly older than my siblings. I can say I almost grew up as a loner. There is that thing which comes naturally with a firstborn, wherever you go you want to be a leader.

I have always told her to take the world by the horns. Be as aggressive as you can. At home now, she wakes up to make breakfast for her siblings. I did that too. Whatever she wants to be in life  is incumbent on her.

RK: Thank you Cindy. These stories are very humbling and I hope that one day Africa will be better because of the stories you tell.

CM: Thank you.

2 thoughts on “Cindy Magara on The Art of Filmmaking

  1. I have enjoyed reading this today! I envy you ECM I have all along wanted to become a film maker but challenges. I miss Prof DD’s lectures on African cinema.

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