Forget everything you think you know about filmmaking and narrative continuity. Forget production values and matching eyelines. Divorce yourself from your over-reliance on the 180-degree rule and your addiction to sumptuous cinematography and slick — or even barely adequate — visual effects. Instead, for 65 glorious, gonzo minutes, put aside the troubles of this crazy world to enjoy “Crazy World,” the magnificently bonkers, self-described “Greatest Eva Kids Movie” from Ugandan film phenomenon IGG Nabwana and his one-man Kampala-based movie industry, Wakaliwood.
Director, writer, producer, editor, cameraman (“and father,” as one of the film’s bizarre running gags insists), IGG Nabwana appears on camera himself to set the scene. In a prologue recorded during the coronavirus lockdown (the film’s international premiere was in Toronto in 2019, but it now plays as part of the COVID-era We Are One collaborative film festival, and well, it’s actually been around since 2014 if you really want to get into it) Nabwana genially shows us around his crumbly Wakaliwood “studios.” He introduces us to the Waka Starz — a gaggle of high-kicking local kids, who despite their diminutive size, are “Uganda’s Biggest Action Stars.” From there, it’s only one quick, lunatic anti-piracy infomercial, featuring locals chained up for illegally watching “Hobbs and Shaw” (“Worth 20 years in this prison!” claims one unrepentant “Fast and Furious” fan), before we’re plunged into the “proper” “movie.”
In the tumbledown district of Wakaliga, with buildings as structurally unsound as the fourth wall that narrator/commentator/carnival barker VJ Emmie aka “World’s Greatest Tongue-Fu Master” constantly breaks, pint-sized local gangster Mr Big (Alex Ssemwogerere) is stealing children at gunpoint. One of the first he snatches is Babymando (Kirabo Beatrice), the daughter of “Uganda’s Greatest Commando,” Supacommando (a charismatic Dauda Bisaso). Supa he might be, and Babymando has some useful moves of her own (the film’s spatial awareness is all over the map except during the cartoonish but well-choreographed fight scenes) but they cannot outmatch Mr Big’s many goons, who take Babymando and shoot her mother.
“Wifey! Revenge!” shouts Emmie’s excitable voiceover, his narration a consistently anarchic joy. Rather like a WWE commentator on triple-strength Ritalin as he rewatches his favorite bouts, Emmie sometimes describes the action, sometimes editorializes, interjecting a superlative or 10 about Nabwana (“World’s Greatest Movie Director”) or reminding us about previous Wakaliwood blockbusters, such as “Bad Black” or “Who Killed Captain Alex?” in which the cast have appeared. At other times, he gets so swept up in the onscreen action that it’s all he can do to huff “Movie! Movie! Movie!” which honestly does serve as quite a helpful reminder of a fact that, with “Crazy World,” it’s easy to forget.
So anyway, six months later, Supacommando has gone mad with grief over his murdered wife and stolen daughter. Or maybe he’s faking madness, the better to spy on Mr Big’s operation through a pair of plastic-bottle binoculars from the trash heap he now calls home? More children are snatched, including born leader Kido (Isaac Newton, the director’s son), before Supacommando teams up with another frantic father, and of course the resourceful, constantly plotting, imprisoned Waka Starz themselves.
Individually and in combination, the good guys tangle with a parade of incompetent cops, venal landlords, scam artists, faithless girlfriends, and at least a dozen henchmen who are dispatched, in a splatter of ketchup squibs and unconvincing video blood effects, via bucket-on-the-head, scissor-kick-to-the-groin, lobbed-polystyrene-brick and good old-fashioned gunshot. Oh, and in the middle of it all, we return unceremoniously to the Piracy Patrol for a deeply hilarious sequence that sends the patrol’s chopper flying — sometimes forward, sometimes backward — across stock photo backdrops as they launch international raids on illegal downloaders from Toronto to Korea and finally to Paris, where the chopper is brought down by a hail of clip-art baguettes.
Too many films are being described as the ones “we need right now,” and it would stretching a point to suggest that “Crazy World” is anything but a boss-level curio in terms of world cinema. But there is such vitality in its heroically slapdash presentation and such sincere, infectious pop-cinema reverence in its constant references (“Ahh, Col. Trautman, making little Rambos” goes one of the deeper cuts) that it does deliver a potent dose of the purest escapism you are likely to discover during this or any other pandemic. And it’s addictive.
Inside “Crazy World” is a teaser for the forthcoming “The Return of Uncle Benon,” billed as the “World’s Greatest Documentary” (three words which contain about five lies). This glimpse at the wider Wakaliwood universe is so tantalizing that even some time after we return to the action Emmie muses “Now I wanna see the other movie.” If you find yourself similarly jonesing for more, don’t fear: A tacky yellow title announces “Uncle Benon” for Cannes 2021 — you, and almost certainly Cannes, heard it here first.