Actors found in the streets, carefully chosen among the poor inhabitants of a slum, special effects, editing, and low budget production. Everything to treat yourself to the dream of feeling closer to Hollywood’s red carpet in Hollywood and to Action Movie myths, such as Chuck Norris and Steven Segal. In the middle of Ugandan slums grows Wakaliwood (from Wakaliga, the name of one of the many dilapidated suburbs of Kampala, the capital of Uganda), an African action movie workshop. It is an initiative by Isaac Nabwana Godfrey, founder of Ramon film production, a mini cinema industry, where he is simultaneously director, producer, camera operator, and editor.
So far, the balance is positive: 46 films in 9 years. All of them are inspired to American cult movies he used to watch as a child, with actors such as Bud Spencer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Bruce Lee. That is not little, considering the available resources. It is unthinkable to be able to work with professional actors or rely on latest technologies that allow you to create digital backgrounds, characters, shootings, and explosions. Therefore, Isaac, as reported in an article for the journal Africa, makes the best of what he has at hand. That is, the inhabitants of the slums and rudimentary special effects achieved thanks to a computer and to the efforts of the makeup artists. To reproduce blood, for instance, he uses food dye contained in some brands of condoms.
Yet, whereas the model he looks at are American movies, we cannot say the same about the stories he tells, all of which are inspired to the situation in Uganda. Such is the case of Who Killed Captain Alex, one of his most appreciated movies, which engaged with the tragic events that occurred during the regime of Idi Amin. The whole movie was produced with a budget of 200 euros. A slap in the face of the people who waste millions on producing unexceptional movies.
The studios are located in an annex. Dauda Bisaso, actor, mechanic, and locksmith, makes all the necessary stage tools. His creations are born from makeshift materials. He can assemble a huge machine gun using spare engines and gears found in the landfill.
In the absence of cinemas, after editing, the final product ends up on DVDs to be sold for little less than one euro each. There is plenty of demand, thus Isaac can make from 600 to 1,000 euros per movie. “The company is always in the black”, he explained with satisfaction. However, the most important thing is that even other countries are beginning to take an interest in his creations. “Next time you come to visit me in this slum – he said – you will see the finest action studios in the world for yourself.” After all, dreams, imagination, and determination are the elements that make movies works of art.