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Uganda’s Tarantino and his $200 action movies (2015) (bbc.com)
252 points by smacktoward 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

The thing about movies like this is, as low budget and low quality as they are, effects wise, they're consistently so. The result is almost a comic-book aesthetic, and something like a helicopter pasted in to the scene doesn't seem out of place, because everything is ridiculous.

Bigger budget movies, meanwhile, can spend millions of dollars on CG and break immersion entirely.

I wish there were a lot more movies like Primer.

$7k budget. I'm not so interested in time travel but I have an unlimited appetite for normal people inventing things in garages. I don't need super-stars, exotic locations or special effects, just good ideas and good dialogue.

One of the more under-appreciated things about Primer is that the first half-hour-or-so really excellently portrays a raw engineering feeling.

The disbelief, the checking and checking again. The "this must be wrong" feeling.

I can't think of another attempt that I have seen that has quite captured it in the same way – other portrayals seem to feel inauthentic.

Does anybody have any suggestions for things that explore this theme well?

Contact (1997) has a great discovery flow.

I disagree. Main character is convinced she's right despite the odds. Primer, they try to figure out how something's working.

Everybody knows about the big blockbuster movies because half the budget is marketing. There a lots and independent movies getting produces all around the world. But you will have to seek them out yourself to some extent.

Could you imagine a Hollywood film where the marketing scheme was “all the actors work for free but get to keep half the money they make selling copies of the film”.

This is pretty much what Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny de Vito negotiated with the studio that made Twins in 1988.

[1] He tells the Daily Mirror newspaper, "I said right off, 'Don't give me anything, you are taking a risk, let's make the movie for $16.5 million, let's keep it cheap, no one takes a salary. Let's just get a certain percentage, the back end, and then we'll split that.'"

The gamble paid off and Twins went on to gross $216 million at the worldwide box office, making a lot of money for the two lead actors. Schwarzenegger adds, "In the end, we made more money than we ever made on anything else we've done."

There are more details about the deal in his autobiography, I recall that Arnold became much more involved in the marketing of the movie than he had been in the past, scheduling press junkets, public appearances etc.


There are things like actors working for free with a percentage of the box office profit. Some top actors made more this way than if they actually got a salary.

SAGAFTRA rules do not permit actors to work for free, even if they get a percentage. (Despite claims that actors worked on the re-shoots for All the Money in the World for free, all of them except Mark Wahlberg were contractually obligated to participate in re-shoots, so they were already paid for their work. Marky Mark was not contractually obligated to participate in re-shoots, and collected roughly $5 million for his...efforts.)

They can work for minimum scale, and get a percentage of profits (Sandra Bullock and Gravity). The trick with Hollywood accounting is to know to ask for a percentage of the rights-owning entity, since the production entity is a loss vehicle that earns no income, and the licensing entity only earns a small markup for its "work" licensing the movie.

The distribution entity is frequently a third-party company or parent company. Distribution entities might get paid a % of revenue (most common if third-party distributor), a fixed or calculated fee for distributing the movie (i.e., Fox and Star Wars), or it might effectively own the rights altogether and get all of the revenues (Disney and other parent-company distributors, otherwise unncommon). In rare situations, the rights-holding entity is the distribution entity (i.e. Blumhouse).

Contrary to popular belief, not all actors work in the USA, and are under SAGAFTRA.

And even for those, working for a minimum fee, non representative of their actual asking price, for indy productions or movies they believe in and want a share of profits, is common, and is more or less the same.

(If you get normally $5 million per movie, doing one for e.g. $200k plus part of profits is not that different from doing it for profits only).

Usually they got scoffed at - even here - with `but I go to the movies to relax, I go to the movies to have quality man'.

There are plenty of good independent films

"Who Killed Captain Alex?" exceeded my expectations more than any other movie I've watched. I got the impression that everyone involved was genuinely passionate about making the best movie they could, which more than made up for the budget limitations. I'd rather watch something like this than a >$100M movie where it's all designed by committee for the broadest appeal possible. Even the VJ commentary, which I at first thought would be annoying, turned out to be entertaining.

"As one of the few white men around, he's in demand as an actor."

A few years ago, I traveled around Africa, including Uganda, using public buses (an adventure in itself) and they would frequently show movies or music videos. Many of the music videos were local hip hop artists, rap music often blended with local traditions. The music videos were no different form the bling-bling videos in the US and you can tell they all needed at least one white girl. Obviously, there were must not have been many options, so for the majority it was some girl that I would not label as "music video" attractive. My assumption was that they must have been the local Peace Core volunteer.

Kampala, like most African cities, is incredibly hectic. Not sure how he found someone randomly.

This sounds fun:

"Watching a movie can be a raucous affair - films are translated into local languages such as Luganda by VJs, or video jokers, who add their own jokes and improvised commentary, live."

It's really funny. Even in my country where there aren't enough literate peoples, you find a hobo telling you what happened in movies such as Matrix, Avengers, Inception from what he heard the translator (VJs, video Jokers) saying.

But you know where all of this started ? In 90's with movies of Jackie Chan and Jet Li. We grew up not understanding what those "Chinese" were talking about but we (still) enjoyed it. We didn't know why they would start fighting ( unless it's about saving a girl, revenging a murdered parent...) but we enjoyed. At that time some cool guys started translating those movies to us with their "knowledge" of Chinese ... Lol.

It really is, and it's a very enriching way of experiencing art. For a long time, this is how stories propagated -- they were told and retold by various people, who sometimes added details or even entire story twists of their own. Improvisation was a natural part of storytelling which movies rendered somewhat unnecessary, but to which they do lend themselves to some degree.

This explains the appeal of RiffTrax and collaborative cult films like the Room.

Most Bud Spencer movies in the 70s and 80s, as most series were synchronized very "freely" in Germany and had often different stories.

I first saw the Indian film PK with very dodgy fan-supplied English subtitles. Rewatching with official subtitles was a disappointment :)

Mystery Science Theatre 3000, anyone? :)

Hadn’t read of that one, sounds good will check it out.

Have you seen Hercules Returns


Sorta reminds me of What's Up Tiger Lily


Speaking of Tarantino and low budgets, Tarantino apprentice (I say this tongue-in-cheek) Robert Rodriguez did his first feature film El Mariachi on a $10k budget.

I distinctly recall that he for instance had only one guitar case on hand, so if you pay close attention, you'll notice that our protagonist (an innocent mariachi with a guitar in his case) and the bad guys chasing him (sporting lots of guns in their case) use the same guitar case! Now that's props on the cheap...

The director's commentary on the DVD is amazing, because it's mostly about all the shortcuts taken to get the film made. Most of the extras are people who provided locations in exchange for appearing in the film. There are short loops of frames of gunfire because they didn't have the right kind guns to film automatic fire with blanks. And so on.

The prison guards early in the movie are the real guards in the real prison.

I should be noted that the only way to keep budgets that low is if most people in front of and behind the camera work for free. This is in no way sustainable in a professional industry.

I remember when I first saw Peter Jackson's Braindead - from the first 5 minutes I wasn't sure if it was an amateur movie or a total parody. Glad I kept watching. Some of the scenes were templates for some LOTR scenes, polished to perfection there.

This strikingly resembles it.


Another good example of good stuff from Wakaliwood, Cuchillo de Fuego’s Nocturno clip:


Damn man!!! I loved it

Y'all should listen to Cuchillo de Fuego, btw.

Link to trailer (I think) mentioned in article - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZXqkgFegLQ

Lalalala....ACTION! Supa Kicker!

The passion is inspiring.

EDIT: Vice also did something on these guys (it seems all the BBC does these days is recycle content) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sy0OOVTmsJI

Forget the trailer, you can watch Who Killed Captain Alex? in its entirety on the official Wakaliwood YouTube channel, complete with hilarious running commentary by VJ Emmie:


Why have I been wasting my life?

Same thoughts here. This just looks fun! It reminds me of when I started programming. I had a cheap laptop that took half an hour just to start. There were few co-working spaces, so I just camped out on the stairs of a goverment building for free internet.

But it was a productive, fun time. Now with all the high end resources and tools I have, it's not as fun and surprisingly, less productive.

Build it in a cave with a box of scraps... and you'll see how productive you have to be.

Why is it less productive now? Doesn't make any sense. Even just the available tools and libraries today make every thinkable workflow orders of magnitude more productive.

Yes, but the end target now is some social media BS, big data BS, or social app BS, or some similar BS, your corporate overlord has you make...

So, it's like making those Ugandan movies with fun and passion for $200 with a compact camera, and making the 1000th Hollywood BS superhero movie with $300 million budget.

One factor likely is the fact that to produce a working website to today's standards is a team effort when a few years ago you could hack out something that worked in a day or two by yourself. Team communications add overhead and that in turn slows you down.

A similar thing has happened to game development, it is rare to see a monetizable game made by a single individual.

This is not about productivity, this is just about quality of content. You can still make a game of the same standard as way back, by one person. It's just that games of today are objectively so much better and more complex and intricate.

Arguably, games like Fallout 4 have a huge world but it's not complex at all. It looks more realistic, but the storyline is simpler and far less memorable than Fallout 2.

I'd also argue the most complex games are something like Dwarf Fortress or Ultima Ratio Regum. Both of which were made by 1-2 people.

The way of writing "use cases" for dwarf fortress is also a lot of fun and probably doesn't scale up with a large insustrial team: http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/dev_story.html

There are games like Rimworld which try to imitate DF's charm, but go further with a team, professionalism, and better funding. But while it's more polished and "balanced", it doesn't come to the same level of craftsmanship. You also don't get the same goofiness as a necromancer who slices off your finger, animates it, then pokes you in the eye with your undead finger.

"You also don't get the same goofiness as a necromancer who slices off your finger, animates it, then pokes you in the eye with your undead finger."

Where does that happen? Ultima ratio regum?

Dwarf Fortress.

It's full of crazy details, like falling down the stairs, cracking a rib, and dying when something pushes the rib through a heart. Or that time when someone found out mermaid bones were valuable and set up structures to trap, breed and "harvest" mermaids.

Even the 'bug' list is a fun read: https://m.imgur.com/gallery/ROa2C

Objectively better? I don't think you can say that.

Objectively different, more complex, and intricate? Absolutely.

I think moving further down the path, you learn to drop passion and focus more on professionalism. Passion is a lot harder to control and manage, often replaced with a cold mechanical professionalism.

I remember when I swapped out flip flops at the office for proper shoes. It felt painful, like a part of my soul died.

"replaced with a cold mechanical professionalism"

And thats when the spirit dies and you get a soulless product which sells, but does not satisfy.

It is about balance. Enthusiasm alone gets you nowhere, but mixed with skills ...

The answer is (partially) provided in the article:

"But he admits that this [use of sewage in the film] puts off distributors, whom he has accused of "trying to copy exactly what is done in the West and exactly what is done in Bollywood and Hollywood". "I'm going to show the world the kind of life we enjoy or we grew up in," Nabwana said in an interview for the 2012 documentary Wakaliwood. "It's called a ghetto life but you know it's good… and it's hostile."

In a sense, you, and perhaps we as well, are the directors being referred to here. We're trying to build something that could become a global juggernaut, so we can be prone to making the product excessively complex, because that's the way it seems like things should be. Nabwana on the other hand is of the '1000 true fans' variety. As long as the he continues to deliver what entertains them, it doesn't matter if the movie was made for $200. With each additional movie, he improves upon his craft.

Get to doing what you love! You have the power and the tools

This is a link to the guy's first movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEoGrbKAyKE&t=145s ... simply awesome! :)

Not Tarantino, more like Peter Jackson Bad Taste https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgCnCri2cTU

This is awesome.

Netflix ought to give these guys a budget and let them run wild.

Well known in the YouTube community https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtiVL6z8wE

The package he got was very funny.

PR material for the movie "Cannibal mama - I hope to meat you" cracked me up. :-D I feel this is a subculture that could be interesting and funny.

I hope at least $1 from Vim donations somehow made it's way to supporting this directly. And I hope that snake lady doesn't suffer the same fate as the original Tin Man.

If anyone wants to support them directly, they have a Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/wakaliwood

The one thing that annoys me in these sorts of articles/titles is that they do not really reflect the true costs of production (be it games or film or anything else). Sure it is easy to make a movie with no budget if you don't pay anything for peoples time, equipment, locations, or any other resources. But that does not mean that those are free, or without value.

Well worth checking out. "Bad Black" looks like a ton of fun. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6044414/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Trailer here: https://vimeo.com/120747455

"He then taught himself how to use editing packages such as Premiere Pro and After Effects, and borrowed a camera from a neighbour. "And with that I started""

But how was he able to afford the expensive adobe products?

Joking ... probably the same way most of his audience sees his work.

Even this is better than Netflix shows. At least you don't expect much, so it exceeds expectations.

Reminds of the movie 'Be Kind Rewind.' Low budget film making is great fun.


Back in a day ZF Skurcz from Poland made a few great amateur kung-fu comedies https://youtu.be/EyumZCv1vD8 Unfortunately there are no subtitles

reminds me of the jack black movie called 'Be Kind Rewind'!


Added. Thanks!

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