Many people have ventured into the Ugandan film industry, but only a handful have been able to make it to the top or make a living off film let alone win the hearts and minds of viewers the way America’s Hollywood or Nigeria’s Nollywood stars have.
But Leilah Nakabira’s name stands out as one of the few Ugandans who’ve made their mark as actresses. The trained economist from Makerere University, has won awards and nominations in major film events in the region.
The Sunrise’s Muhamadi Byemboijana caught up with her at the National Theatre last week where she had camped to read a script for one of the film projects she’s working on.
Leilah Nakabira is a Multi-talented film-maker, producer and owner of Lepa films Africa. She was born 26 years ago in Butambala district to Hajji Yusuf Kityo and the late Asiya Nakibuka. Nakabira grew up in Mpigi district and attended Gombe Standard Primary before she joined Mityana Modern for her ‘O’ and ‘A’-levels.
Upon completion, Nakabira enrolled for a Bachelors degree in Quantitative Economics, majoring in Economic Planning at Makerere University which she completed in 2018. Nakabira notes however that she discovered that practicing economics wasn’t her passion. She felt she wanted to act more, a passion she developed while still at campus.
“I used to watch Mariam Ndagire film acting classes at Bat Valley and they inspired me a lot. Some movies like the first hostel that had the Helen Lukoma group were also a source of inspiration to me.” So while she didn’t neglect her academic endeavors, she made sure she pursued her acting dream.
“I met Actor Trevor Kaye who introduced me to Flavia Busulwa of Vision One Production who cast me in a Ugandan high school TV Series called ‘wasted’” recalls Nakabira.
“Since then I have never looked back as it was a golden opportunity to me. It helped me get involved in other projects that included Dream America, a Goodaliya film production which received four nominations from the Uganda Film Festival and was awarded the Best Feature film in the Pearl International Film Festival,” says Nakabira.
Nakabira’s movie “The forbidden” is perhaps the most successful in as far as elevating her star. With Forbiden, she received nominations for awards from as far as Ghana and the UK. She was nominated for her role in the Golden Movie Awards held in Ghana where she was pitted against established actors and actresses like Rita Dominic, Danielle Okeke among others.
She was also nominated in the UK based Zulu African Film Academy Awards in the sets actress category still for her role in Forbidden. At the end of 2018, she had collected awards thanks to the movie.
Talking about the secrets to her success, Nakabira cites confidence and adequate preparations as having been key to her rapid rise to the top.
“As an actress, confidence and preparations with talent are important. When you’re confident, talented and prepared, you will succeed as an actor or director and everything needs time and patience,” she says.
During the course of her film-making journey, Nakabira has witnessed some distressing things, particularly sexual abuse of women by their male counterparts, which she wishes to campaign against.
The challenges being faced in the movie industry have forced Nabatanzi to start up the Leilah Nabatanzi Charity Foundation with the view to empowering and encouraging girls to overcome the vices.
Nakabira also advises actors on personal branding and investing in their images. For example, she observes that often times, many artists are lazy to update their social media pages, which are important platforms for networking with fans.