Born in Zombo district, Northern Uganda, Denis Onen had to beat all odds to emerge a filmmaker.
In a country with few professional filmmakers, his career is highly decorated. His film documentary City on Fire won an award in the annual Zanzibar International Film Festival. Another film, Golden Dianah, was awarded in German and it has also been nominated at The cinema Africa Festival in Sweden.
Onen is aware that the quality of Ugandan made films leaves a lot to be desired. But he believes that local consumers are realizing the need for quality videos and films, and are indirectly pushing filmmakers to do better.
“Uganda’s film industry is characterized with copy and paste, with miserable story lines and poorly directed videos,” Onen says. “Most of our films and our music videos comprise storylines and ideas pulled from Nigerian movies and Jamaican music Videos. Isn’t that copy and paste.”
In some countries Film is one of the most profitable industries. USA’s Hollywood and India’s Bollywood are famous money makers. Figures in the public domain indicate that in Africa, Nigeria’s Nollywood is contributing 1.2 percent to the national economy and is providing over two million jobs.
Onen says that many Ugandan filmmakers are simply not professional.
“Our filmmakers think that by holding a camera and knowing how to join pieces of video clips then automatically one can produce a film. You will find a piece filmed with a ‘China phone’ and one will make people believe that it is a video,” Onen says.
“They should first learn and understand the creative process of storytelling. That is the back bone of filmmaking,” he adds.
Onen says that Uganda has professional filmmakers but they have been kept behind the curtains. “These are the kind of people who will mind about a story and the will not want to copy and paste but they are not as famous as the self made downtown film maker,” he says.
Onen behind the Lens
A founding member of Kampala Film School (KFS), Onen Began his career in 2008. He later founded a production company, NEN 316, and Cinelab Akademie, a training project for visual media skills, photography, film/video production, and Television production.