How a Ugandan Director is Making Great Action Movies on $200 Budgets

Isaac Nabwana is not a conventional filmmaker. He does not follow the rules taught in a film school but produces movies that Ugandans enjoy watching
“It is where we make some of my guns. If I need a pipe, I will buy it from him,” he says as he directs actors on which scene they should showcase for photography purposes.
For 90 seconds, two of the actors engage in physical combat action, kicking and punching each other. The main star then comes in, with a heavy machine gun and shoots them down.
As we are at it, two more actors have volunteered to also offer photographic moments. They are half dressed and their bodies covered in banana leaves.
At this point, passersby, mostly children from the neighbourhood are smiling and engaging in small talk but the sight of people in dry banana leaves gets them loud. “Laba abasezi,” they shout in excitement, through their sunny smiles. This is interpreted to mean, “Look at night dancers”.
The two actors dance around a stranger and go on to floor him and start chopping and eating his body parts. It is Wednesday and more of his cast are taking shelter in one of the rooms, waiting for him to chair a meeting for some upcoming productions.


History of Wakaliwood

“These are people who are passionate about making film. We are not yet there. I do not pay them much but they keep coming and together, we have made a number of films,”

Nabwana tells me as he takes me around Wakaliwood and Ramon Film Productions, the companies under which he handles film production.
In Wakaliwood, he fused two words, an acronym of the area where he is based- Wakaliga, and Hollywood, home of United States’ film industry.

The monies

The most expensive movie he has produced is Who Killed Captain Alex, a movie that is listed on IMDb, one of the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movies, television and celebrity content. The movie has attracted a number of foreign media, including Al-Jazeera and BBC.
He spent US$200 (about Shs700, 000) on the production which is peanuts compared to Hollywood movies that cost a lot more.


Little wonder BBC’s Vibeke Venema labelled Nabwana’s Ramon Film Production, the Ugandan film company that makes low-budget action movies in the slums and has found a cult following online.
One of those who watched Who Killed Captain Alex is Alan Hofmanis, a programme director for the Lake Placid Film Festival. He left the US and came to see how Nabwana makes films on such a meagre budget.
“I realised what I am looking at makes no sense – but it is complete genius,” he told BBC. The movie is among 50 movies Nabwana has produced. He says making movies has not been about money but working with passion and people who share the same ideals.


Nabwana says finances are a big challenge. He says that he has tried to access financing from Centenary Bank but was turned down by the loan officer. “Another challenge is lack of female actors. Husbands cannot let their wives act because they think films are trivial and then the copyright law is not effective,” he explains.
Nabwana’s wish is to buy a piece of land on which he can set up a film academy where he can teach and impart skills.
He says he is self-taught but advises any filmmaker to acquire education and learn doing film the conventional way.

Some of his top movies

Who killed capt Alex?
Rescue Team
The Return of Uncle Benon
Bad Black
Bukunja Tekunja mitti”The cannibals”,
Ani Mulalu”The crazy world”,
Ejjini lye ntwetwe,
Operation Kakongoliro ‘The Ugandan Expendables’
Million dollar kid



Written by PH

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