When a New Yorker and a Ugandan brickmaker share a love for Chuck Norris, the result is the inspiring tale captured by director Cathryne Czubek. Here’s our Once Upon A Time In Uganda review.
Film is often viewed as a medium confined to the dazzling lights of Hollywood or the poetic visuals of arthouse cinema. Once Upon a Time in Uganda shatters that illusion, delivering a compelling tale of resourcefulness and cinematic love in the most unexpected location—Wakaliga, Uganda.
Director Cathryne Czubek captures the sheer tenacity of Isaac, a former brickmaker, and Alan, a film enthusiast from New York, who join forces to create Wakaliwood—a Ugandan film haven. Their story transcends the traditional narrative, highlighting how ingenuity and a shared love for Chuck Norris can fuel a global community.
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Despite its modest budget and limited resources, this documentary thrives in its rawness. It doesn’t shy away from revealing Wakaliwood’s struggles—be it financial hurdles or cultural barriers. Yet, it’s this very authenticity that elevates it, drawing us into a world where celluloid dreams are crafted with more heart than money.
The film succeeds in highlighting the infectious enthusiasm of its subjects. Scenes of Isaac crafting a makeshift projector or the applause in festivals worldwide resonate with a universal chord—cinema as the great unifier. These scenes do tend to drag on a bit, though, and there’s the sense that it’s all a bit hammed up to self-mythologise the story. Isaac strikes me as the kind of bloke whose integrity would prefer his audiences to be shown how enjoyable his work is rather than told.
While the documentary excels in various aspects, it could benefit from more polish and deeper contextual framing. The viewer is left wanting to know more about the socio-political landscape that shapes Wakaliwood’s very existence. Instead, we’re hectored a little bit too much by Hofmanis’s own life and perspectives.
Once Upon a Time in Uganda is a testament to the transformative power of film and is a must-see for anyone interested in how far passion and creativity can stretch the boundaries of conventional cinema.