The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Ukaegbu Here to Salvage Ugawood

Nigerian filmmaker Kingsley Paul Ukaegbu has spoken of the hatred he has courted in Uganda, where he is back to shoot his second film in less than two months.

"Some of your so-called stars are saying I have only come here to reap money. I think they are just jealous of my success," said Ukaegbu.

Insiders say Ukaegbu's wrath is aimed at Abbey Mukiibi and Mariam Ndagire, who shunned participating in his first Uganda film, Shadows of Fate, which was shot and premiered in Kampala in a record ten days mid last month. However, Ukaegbu and his fellow star, Nigerian Clem Ohameze defended Mukiibi, saying he had conflicting schedules. But the duo lashed out at Ndagire whom they accused of being proud.

"She thinks she is big but I could easily destroy her by bringing Patience Ozokwor down here," Ohameze was quoted saying in a January interview with Daily Monitor.

Ukaegbu has echoed these sentiments, blasting whoever is against his presence, including Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the government's film industry regulatory body.

"UCC is not the organization to look up to for the development of Uganda's film industry. Clearly, they are not doing their job the way they are supposed to," he said of the organization that allowed him to work here.

Love at first sight

Ukaegbu recalls his decision to come to Uganda started as a joke when Nollywood-based Ugandan actress, Faridah Ndausi, approached him.

"I had never heard of, let alone watched, any Ugandan film so I was sceptical about risking my money and reputation," Ukaegbu recalls.

He instantly changed his mind when he touched down on Ugandan soil. The scenery, hospitality and local talent got him hooked. He hastily flew in a small Nigerian cast and crew-led by Ohameze- to shoot Shadows of Fate.

Coming back

At the film's red carpet premiere at Cineplex Oasis, Ukaegbu pledged to make at least three more movies in Uganda as homage to the warm reception he had received. And true to his word, the US-based Nigerian is back and working on forthcoming film, Solutions.

I had to plod for a full day before I could be granted the interview. When I finally caught up with him on Wednesday evening, he was on set at a city location. I talked to some of his cast and crew members, who hailed him as a very professional man that occasionally shouts at them if they don't get their routines right.

"I am here to boost the Ugandan industry; it is as simple as that. We did the same in Ghana a couple of years back," the 35-year-old Nigerian said.

How? "Look at it this way: I come here and spend over $100,000 (about Shs 270m) to produce a film, which I then take with me to sell outside. Who is gaining?"

Women's ambassador

Indeed, the director has a history of working with big budgets, thanks to hefty sponsorship packages from corporate companies. But Ukaegbu said it is hard getting sponsorship.

"Usually, they [companies] want to come in after seeing the finished product. This means you have to struggle to foot the production budget," said the director with 19-year experience that has earned him a good reputation to be trusted by sponsors.

Most of Ukaegbu's films chronicle shocking themes of rape, molestation, defilement and domestic violence. And Solutions, which he hopes to premiere on March 20, is not any different. The film stars stunning Nigerian actress Yvonne Jegede in the lead as a troubled girl.

As in most of his films, the character emerges triumphant. And this, Ukaegbu says, has won him many female fans, though it could be that some girls love him for his charming looks.

Single

He does not deny loving the girls back. Once in a while, he said, he gets flings, though never with fellow entertainers. He declares himself single but says he hopes to marry by this year's end.

"I have this urge to settle down but I have not yet found the right woman. I won't care about the race, religion or beauty for as long as she is willing to accept me and bear me children."

Outside film

Film was never Ukaegbu's first love. He played professional football till 1993. He has other interests besides film. He does managerial work for a US solar company and co-owns a dredging company called Orbit Marine, in Nigeria.

"Ugandans should also watch out for my collabo with Angella Katatumba. It should be out by April," concluded the man who also composes music for his films.

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