×

BiFan Film Review: ‘Bad Black’

A no-budget brew of comedy, action and wisecracking voiceover narration by self-taught Ugandan filmmaker Nabwana I.G.G.

Director:
Nabwana I.G.G.
With:
Nalwanga Gloria, Alan Hofmanis, Emmie Bbate, Bisaso Dauda, Kazibwe Ronald, Nakaye Janeti, Namatovu Annet, Ssebankyaye Mohammed, Rolean Kasule, Kirabo Beatrice, Mugume Jeff, Kagolo Francis, Bukenya Charles, Nalukenge Martha, Birungi Rose. (Luganda, English dialogue)   **** please note: names are reversed in Luganda so it's correct to have surnames first.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6044414/?ref_=nv_sr_2

“Bad Black” is a deliriously entertaining multi-genre mashup by the self-taught and staggeringly prolific Ugandan filmmaker Nabwana I.G.G. This supercharged mix of pretty good kung-fu, gloriously bad special effects and wickedly funny voiceover narration is also sprinkled with affecting drama and sharp social commentary that elevate it far above mere novelty status. Guaranteed to thrill midnight-movie geeks and well worth the attention of cineastes and film scholars, the film is enjoying a highly successful festival run and won the audience award at Austin Fantastic Fest. In light of this significant new exposure, and with the prospect of his movie becoming a cult hit, it will be very interesting to see what the future holds for Nabwana.

Nabwana (full name: Nabwana Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey) has cranked out nearly 40 features in the past 15 years. Since 2011 his principal collaborator has been Alan Hofmanis, a filmic jack-of-all-trades New Yorker who viewed the trailer for Nabwana’s “Who Killed Captain Alex” (2.8 million You Tube hits thus far) and arrived unannounced on the Ugandan’s doorstep shortly thereafter.

While “Bad Black” can be enjoyed without any knowledge of its production circumstances, those circumstances completely define Nabwana’s work and are worth noting briefly here. The director shoots exclusively in Wakaliga (nicknamed “Wakaliwood”), the slum district of his childhood. Props are made from whatever’s handy (e.g., sticks and packing tape become “guns”). Post-production is carried out on computers Nabwana built from salvaged parts.

Like many of the director’s previous films, “Bad Black” is inspired by 1980s Hollywood action cinema. Indeed, the first character we meet is Swaaz (Ssebankyaye Mohammed), the “Ugandan Schwarzenegger” who commits a robbery to save the life of his desperately ill wife. Here, and throughout the entire film, a wildly enthusiastic narrator (voiced by Emmie Bbatte) offers very funny English-language commentary on everything that’s happening. This revved-up hybrid of the benshi from Japanese silent cinema and the wisecracking Tom Servo character from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” has its origins in 1980s Uganda, where VJ’s (video jokers) provided translations and made cheeky quips during screenings at video clubs.

Hilarity gives way to serious drama when attention shifts to Black (Kirabo Beatrice), a poor young girl taken from her loving foster grandmother, Jajja (Namatovu Annet), and enslaved by vicious operators using children as beggars. The heartbreaking sight of Black witnessing the murder of a friend gives real emotional backbone to everything that follows, however over-the-top it might be.

Ten years later, Black (now played by Nalwanga Gloria), is a foxy femme hell-bent on getting even with every scumbag that done her wrong. Top of her list is Hirigi (Bisaso Dauda), a rich slimeball whose activities shed light on social and economic inequality in urban Uganda. While Black lays a honey trap for Hirigi, Nabwana throws in any number of crazy subplots. Best of the bunch involves Dr. Ssali (Hofmanis), a mild-mannered American aid worker caught in the crossfire of Black’s schemes. In a development that seems perfectly natural in Nabwana’s movie universe, a young lad known as Wesley Snipes (Rolean Kasule) orders the medico to toughen up and proceeds to put him through military training drills. Hey, presto, a commando fighting machine is born.

Elsewhere, Hirigi’s haughty wife (Nakaye Janeti) and good-for-nothing son Kenny (Kazibwe Ronald) are thrown into the wild melee of gunplay, kung-fu combat and car chases that follow Black wherever she goes. Nabwana never lingers too long anywhere: At one point when the pace appears to be slackening, the narrator calls out “boring!” and action shifts elsewhere.

Performed with infectious zeal by a cast of hundreds, “Bad Black” proves that under the right circumstances, enthusiastic amateurs can carry the day just as well as highly trained professionals. Technical work is basic but effective.

 

Popular on Variety

BiFan Film Review: ‘Bad Black’

Reviewed at BiFan Film Festival (World Fantastic Red), July 14, 2017. (Also in Austin Fantastic, Imagine, Fantasia, Seattle, Florida, Brussels Fantastic film festivals.) Running time: 69 MIN.

Production: (Uganda) A Ramon Films Productions production. (International sales: Ramon Films, Kampala.) Producer: Nabwana I.G.G. Co-producer: Alan Hofmanis.

Crew: Director: Nabwana I.G.G. Screenplay: Nabwana I.G.G., Alan Hofmanis. Camera (color, mini-dv, HD-to-HD): Nabwana I.G.G. Editor: Nabwana I.G.G.

With: Nalwanga Gloria, Alan Hofmanis, Emmie Bbate, Bisaso Dauda, Kazibwe Ronald, Nakaye Janeti, Namatovu Annet, Ssebankyaye Mohammed, Rolean Kasule, Kirabo Beatrice, Mugume Jeff, Kagolo Francis, Bukenya Charles, Nalukenge Martha, Birungi Rose. (Luganda, English dialogue)   **** please note: names are reversed in Luganda so it's correct to have surnames first.

More Film

  • Aracne

    Sanfic Standout ‘Aracne’ Filmmakers Discuss the State of Chilean Genre

    A key project at this year’s Santiago Lab, the Santiago Intl. Film Festival industry forum for promising Latin American projects, Florencia Dupont’s “Aracne” is representative of a push from the next generation of Chilean filmmakers into genre cinema and the themes it can explore. “Aracne” turns on Beatriz, a young journalist at a small Santiago [...]

  • Eduardo Machuca

    Chile’s Eduardo Machuca Unveils Machuca Films Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    SANTIAGO, Chile – Eduardo Machuca, the former film co-ordinator of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has launched his own production company, Machuca Films. “After 25 years at the ministry, I felt I needed to tap my creative side,” said Machuca, who is also tying the knot on Saturday (Aug. 25) with a former Sanfic staffer, [...]

  • Robert Downey Jr. Disney Legends Ceremony,

    Robert Downey Jr. Reveals He Was Busted for Smoking Pot at Disneyland

    Robert Downey Jr. celebrated his Disney Legend status by sharing the endearing tale of how the first time he visited Disneyland, he was arrested. The Iron Man actor was being honored in Anaheim at Disney’s biennial D23 convention. After a brief introduction by Disney chief executive officer Bob Iger, Downey felt he had to come [...]

  • Thandie Newton Reminiscence

    Thandie Newton Reteams With 'Westworld's' Lisa Joy on 'Reminiscence' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following her Emmy win for her performance on “Westworld,” Thandie Newton is joining the feature directorial debut of the show’s co-creator. Sources tell Variety that Newton is set to join Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in Warner Bros.’ “Reminiscence,” directed by “Westworld’s” Lisa Joy. WB acquired the rights to the package after this year’s Berlin [...]

  • Ming-Na Wen poses at the Disney

    Original 'Mulan' Star Ming-Na Wen Weighs in on Remake's Controversy

    Ming-Na Wen, who played the leading voice role in the original 1998 version of “Mulan,” has spoken out about the recent controversy surrounding Disney’s forthcoming live-action remake, which has been co-opted by China’s authoritarian regime to attack Hong Kong protestors. “We are living in a world right now where there’s so much change and confusion [...]

  • Jon Favreau'The Lion King' film premiere,

    Jon Favreau 'Holding Out Hope' for Spider-Man to Remain in the MCU

    Spider-Man’s potential exit from the Marvel Cinematic Universe could throw a wrench in Happy and Aunt May’s relationship, but Jon Favreau is “optimistic” the love affair will continue amid Sony’s dispute with Disney. “You never know what’s going to happen. I’m holding out hope and being optimistic that this isn’t the final chapter of the [...]

  • Cara Delevingne'Carnival Row' TV show premiere,

    Cara Delevingne Talks Immigration, Taylor Swift's Battle With Scooter Braun

    Cara Delevingne, whose faerie character in “Carnival Row” finds herself washed ashore as a refugee in a foreign land, said she was immediately drawn by the show’s fantastical take on issues of immigration and assimilation. “It’s a cause that I have been involved in for a long time,” Delevingne told Variety at the premiere of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content