Filmmaker Dilman Dila talks about the industry that has made him
- Written by NATHAN ATILUK
One can comfortably assert that Uganda’s film, drama and comedy industry has never boomed like it does currently.
With improved technology, Ugandan film producers have really upped their game and are ready to compete with the best in the field. Dilman Dila is a writer and filmmaker. Many may not know him, but he has done a lot of great work. He has written many short stories, including A Killing in the Sun, three novellas, and The Future God of Love.
He also has a second collection of short stories which is already out, including Kabi and Kalo which will mainly be aired on his YouTube channel.
As a multi-award-winning filmmaker, scriptwriter and director, Dilman Dila started as a writer with one of the media houses in Uganda, writing short stories in the early 2000s.
But it quickly dawned on him that there was little money to be made in writing, especially in a country like Uganda that is not renowned for good reading culture. During that time, there was a boom in Nigerian films in Uganda, and he realised he could make more money in film. At first, he only wanted to be a screenwriter and gave his scripts to some producers.
“They never paid me, though; one of them went on to make a film out of it and she made some money through NGOs,” he said.
He quickly realized that Ugandan producers do not value the writing process, and screenwriters were among the worst paid in the industry if they were ever paid at all.
That’s when he decided to join film production. He started to teach himself, bought books on filmmaking, attended online tutorials and, eventually, he went for Maisha Film Lab where he got professional mentorship.
He would later attend more film labs, at Durban Talent Campus, and Berlinale Talent Campus and that was all the foundation he wanted. In 2011, Dila founded a company, Dilstories, “so as to make money from my film productions, since corporations would rather deal with a company than with an individual”.
Over the years, he has made some profits and as the film business grows with television channels, especially MultiChoice, now buying Uganda content, it was time to invest more in his passion.
Dila draws his inspiration from filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Ousmane Sembene and Akira Kurosawa. He has actually studied their styles and wanted to make films the way they did.
At the time Dila was coming of age as a filmmaker in the late 2000s, there had already been a mini boom in the industry, although productions were of poor quality, and storytelling was non-existent.
“So, by the time I started making films seriously, around 2012, there was already a negative attitude among Ugandans that our films were not worth it. This killed the market,” Dila said. “Without a market, it’s hard to invest substantially in film, but if there is a sustainable market, then a filmmaker can be sure of returns.”
Despite the gains in the industry, Dila feels filmmakers are yet to have the professional crews they need.
“Most of the time people don’t learn the craft. Once someone has learned how to use a camera, they call themselves a director of photography, and that can make work very frustrating. I’ve also seen directors who don’t even follow the scripts, and their delivery murders the story.”
ABOUT KABI AND KALO
Kabi and Kalo was made out of a specific need, according to Dila.
“It’s the kind of story that came about from a critical thinking process, rather than the kind of inspiration that hits an artiste when they wake up in the morning and look out of the window and hear a bird sing.”
Dila wanted to create a product for online consumption. It had to be a comedy, an all-out comedy with a joke every minute or so. With this in mind, he had to develop the characters, and give them goals.
The woman (Kabi) wants to be a musician, but she can’t sing, and she deceives her mother and studies music while her mother thinks she is studying engineering. The man (Kalo) is a mama’s boy, who is used to soft money, and so he is a small-time con artist, but he is not particularly skilled at it too.
“Pairing these two characters gave me the story.”
The movie features Lynda Uwera who is an influencer, as Kabi and comedian Daniel Omara as Kalo. Sarah Kisauzi, TikTok sensation Brennan Baby, and musician Diana Nalubega are also part of the cast.