19 June 2012

Uganda: Youtube Turns Ugandans Into Instant Celebrities


Last year, a friend living abroad contacted me to buy and send him a Ugandan movie, Who Killed Captain Alex. I had never heard of it and did I know where to start.

"You mean you don't know about it? It's the funniest movie ever made in Uganda, check it out on YouTube," he said.

And there it was the two-minute trailer of the first action movie produced in Uganda. The YouTube video had become the talk of town. Ramon Film Production's clip was outright comedy; a helicopter flies into Workers House, bombs it to the ground and flies off without a scratch. The kung-fu kicks were stuff made in Shanghai, the bullets and blasts only rivalled by Rambo's. Even cars bled when they were shot at.

The whole world watched it. Britain, America, Canada, Asia, and Russia commended it, reviewed it and laughed at its ridiculousness. Something funny from Uganda at last, thanks to YouTube. The trailer has 80,539 hits, 345 comments and counting. The producers did not expect the worldwide uproar. All they ever did was sit in their office in Nateete and try to do a movie away from the rich galore, fancy house, witchcraft and love stories that African movie production is made of; they wanted to try their hand at action movies.

Then someone posted it on YouTube and everyone wanted to buy. I ordered for a copy and they asked for Shs 5,000. I paid Shs 10,000 because this kind of raw talent needed support. YouTube has turned Ugandans into international stars. Now every Ugandan TV station must own a YouTube page. Every artiste must hit it big time on YouTube and make sure he has more views than the next.

Ugandans abroad do not have to wait for Christmas to come back home to watch the much-talked-about Agataliiko Nfuufu, the news bulletin by Bukedde TV. They can now catch the stomach-turning clips on YouTube with just a click of the mouse. Every NTV news clip is also carried on their YouTube page. As a result, reporter Agnes Nandutu with her comic accent has also become a YouTube sensation. She even has her own YouTube page.

It was on this TV station's news feature Point Blank that a Full Full Condition was posted on YouTube and to the station's surprise it became popular comedy with 216,465 views. The video clip is about a drunkard Alex Gwamba narrating a beer truck veering off the road, crushing to the ground and emptying its contents by the roadside. The residents abandoned their work and threw a beer party all day.

Now Gwamba is not only a fodder for jokes, but he is also one of the most popular Ugandans. Kenyans know him more than they do our ministers. Gwamba inspired a telecom campaign in Kenya by Airtel, titled Full Full Weekend. But who can forget how YouTube catapulted Moses Golola to stardom? At first he was relegated to the bibanda boys because the people with the money did not want to know of this rough kick boxer with a funny box haircut.

Then he started throwing in those funny one liners: "I am the only man who can impregnate a woman just by looking at her; I pull pages out of Facebook; I am the only man who silenced Hitler".

Some smart chap with a laptop and internet juxtaposed him with Hilter, threw in some hilarious subtitles and made the Hitler's Reaction to Golola Moses video. And Golola became a household name, uniting Ugandans. Companies wanted him to endorse their products; he was invited to every party and asked to speak. He even got the lead role in the movie, Christmas in Kampala. He had joined the big boys' club.

The mark of how far YouTube can take Uganda was well demonstrated when early this year, the 30-minute Kony 2012 video was posted by Invisible Children, an American NGO. The NGO wants top leaders in America to come out and support the hunt for LRA rebel commander, Joseph Kony. Its supremacy in Uganda is unrivalled; it was tagged, forwarded, shared and spread across the world in a matter of days.

Celebrities tweeted it, teenagers showed it to their parents. It is competing on the world market with over 90 million views and reviews by major media houses all over the world. It got a mention on Oprah Winfrey's show and celebrities supported the cause.

This video put the mark on social marketing and if done well, Uganda can market itself very well using YouTube. But is our tourism board learning or it is still old school? The campaign, Gifted by Nature, would market Uganda on YouTube for free better than it did on CNN when millions of dollars were sunk in.

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