My name is Alan Ssali Hofmanis and my background is in film production and film festival programming. Two years ago I saw the trailer for Who Killed Captain Alex: Uganda's First Action Movie and jumped on a plane to Africa. I've lived with Wakaliwood, an action movie studio in the slums of Uganda, for about 8 months. I starred in four of their films and became the first mzungu/westerner to appear in Ugandan cinema.

Proof: Here's a Clip and Trailer from the upcoming action film, Bad Black.

And here's a pic of me with filmmaker Nabwana IGG, the Robert Rodriquez of Africa, in Wakaliwood, Uganda.

And one of me just now in NYC

This AMA is in response to this post on reddit about photographs I have taken with Wakaliwood over the months. It went over pretty well, and people has a heck of a lot of questions. So here I am!

Ugandan filmmaker Nabwana IGG and I will soon be bringing Wakaliwood's many action and horror films to the world, for the first time ever. AMA!

Let's start at 11am (EST), if anyone has any questions...?

For anyone who want to support these guys, we are selling autographed movie posters and T-shirts HERE. There were produced in Uganda, and will be shipped from NYC. By my friends and family. The money goes back to them in Uganda.

Comments: 121 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

ppfishstick22 karma

What prompted you to bathe in raw sewage the second time?

Uncle_Benon21 karma

Oh, god, it was never ever intentional. You can see it in this clip. And if you pay attention you can hear Isaac laughing as he is filming when it happens.

It turned out to be a big deal, tho'. The mwala (that means a sewage trenches or woman, I get them confused, and it's baaaaaaad) play a big part in his films. he purposely put scenes where the Commandos or whomever have to crawl through them to get where they are going. The reason is that the sewage defines these films as ghetto. No one in the upper classes would come near it, but if you are from there, it is part of your life. As a child you play in it and catch frogs. And the actors love it because it defines THEM as ghetto.

I knew nothing of this, and on my first day we were doing a scene where I jump over the sewage while being chased. Nut I lost my footing and fell in. It's the real deal. It's thick and horrible. But I didn't care. I just got up and said what next. They had never seen anyone outside the slum do that, much less an American pretending to be Schwartenegger. Isaac describes it as my baptism into Wakaliwood and how they all knew we could make great things together...

This is the scene in question. I feel so bad because I pulled in one of the guys with me...

PS If anyone out there wants to help me

[deleted]1 karma


Uncle_Benon3 karma

But then how do you say trench...? It's very similar, no? I got in real trouble with this giving a speech in Luganda....

themindofthat1 karma

I think Girl is Muwala, where as trench is Mwala, I could be wrong though, my Luganda is atrocious.

Uncle_Benon2 karma

Yeah, I think you're right. The two of us should go on a speaking tour of Uganda...

kingdadrock9 karma

What's a Ugandan action movie budget like?

Uncle_Benon27 karma

I can tell you what they have been. Isaac make 6 or 7 films at a time, so it's a little hard to say with certainty, but when we break it down it comes to about $200 - $300 a film. And that money goes to computer parts and miniDV tape, most of all.

The cast and crew build their own weapons, props, and costumes, and get themselves to Wakaliwood. Isaac and his family feed them. But they are not quite volunteers. It's much more interesting. If you work on the film, you have the right to sell the DVD. No one else can sell it. There's good money in that if you put the time in, because the films are so popular and beloved in the ghettos. And you keep about 30% of gross, which is way more than ANY actor in the West would receive.

easyontheeggs8 karma

What do you think of the new law criminalizing homosexuality, and what is the stance of those with whom you work?

Uncle_Benon14 karma

Yeah, that's a good and interesting question... That's what Uganda is best-known for in the West. Human rights abuse and child soldiers. I don't want to speak for anyone, especially Isaac, who can express himself better than just about anyone. But I can tell you that we have talked about it.

When I ask him about Kuchu or gays in Uganda he is of course against oppression, and he also has never asked anyone 'what they do'. And that I should look around, and see that there are people working with him from all different tribes, languages, and backgrounds (which is extremely rare in Uganda). He doesn't involve himself in politics directly. He said he lets the films speak for themselves and that he kills all people equally.

gooneruk8 karma

Did you see any other parts of Uganda? I went there for my honeymoon last year, and we did loads of safari and animal trekking all over the country. I absolutely loved it, although it was a little weird going to visit the camp where a load of tourists had been killed by Congolese rebels only a year or two earlier.

Having said that, it's totally worth trekking for hours up and down massive hills to then be less than a couple of metres away from some huge gorillas. The juniors are incredibly playful too, really interested in visitors and the world around them.

Oh, and how does Wakaliwood compare to Nollywood? The latter seems to be kicking out films at an incredible rate, and the DVDs are hugely popular here in parts of London with big west African populations.

Uncle_Benon8 karma

And with regards to Nollywood, that's a full blown industry with hundreds of filmmakers and an output larger than Hollywood's. Wakaliwood is one man in a slum.

Isaac (IGG) has an incredible team, to be sure, but the comparison is more like Kevin Smith vs Hollywood. An individual vs. an empire. Except here, Kevin Smith is making cannibal zombie action films movies with people coming from all over East Africa to work with him and get eaten.

Uncle_Benon6 karma

I only seen a small part of Uganda. Kampala, and out East when location scouting for a Wakaliwood Western featuring a giant gorilla. I hear the country is so, so beautiful. And we want to put that in the movies. Until now, they've only been able to film in their back yard.

I'm dying to go... I need to. I'm just a little work obsessed :)

gooneruk4 karma

I assume you've experienced the joys of an African Massage then? Jeez, those were some of the worst roads I've ever been on in my life.

Uncle_Benon8 karma

There's two things that I think Uganda is going to be known for - Action Movies, and Comedy. There is no way you can survive in Uganda without being able to laugh and have a sense of humor.

Goredema8 karma

Have you guys thought of using Kickstarter or a similar site to fund upgrades to the studio equipment or the creation of a "mega-budget" film? I'm sure a lot of Westerners would love to throw some money at this, in exchange for a copy of a film or two.

Uncle_Benon7 karma

Yeah, that may be what to do here... We may even make one of the films available first, perhaps for free via Pirate Bay, and then try to get some support for computers, equipment, etc... But yeah, it seems KS may be a good home for them.

hyuga4888 karma

Hey Alan, thanks for doing this AMA! My question is have you ever had a scene in one of your horror movies where you actually felt in danger, or is walkaliwood pretty good about actor safety?

Uncle_Benon41 karma

There is no actor safety. They care very much, and they do try. But what can they really do? None of them have ever even seen a doctor. i took Isaac myself. He was 40 and was shaking his head the whole time in disbelief that he is actually at a clinic. That's one of the things that can change with the films. It sounds crazy, but by them selling a film online with heads exploding (see Tebaatusasula), even at $5, that would bring more than enough for them to get proper care and even an education for the kids (waka starz)

It's a slum and the conditions are dangerous. Glass, rocks, etc. I ripped my hand open on their replica of Rambo's M60. Because it's raw metal and weighs a ton. I wanted to keep shooting, but the children surrounded me and wanted to see it. They has to stop shooting because villagers wanted a look and kids even started poking at the wound. I wrapped up my hand and all was good, but Isaac explained to me that night what really happened.

They had never seen a white person bleed before, and they thought I would have blue blood.

Nankey9078 karma

What could someone in the US do to help collaborate on your films without actually traveling to Uganda? (Beyond just finances) I'm a sfx student and curious!

Uncle_Benon5 karma

You're an SFX Student...?? Check this out. You're the first person to see this clip.

As far as how to collaborate, that's what we got to figure out. All of us. One challenge is that it is very difficult to share footage online, because of electricity and because the country is basically dial-up. Isaac looooves to collaborate, and loves seeing things he never thought of. Just have to figure out how...

TheGoodMachine1 karma

Hate to tell you this, but he’s probably not the first one seeing it right now. ;)

The link just goes to a user’s own uploads page. Not to any clip.

Uncle_Benon3 karma

Ah, fixed!

InvisiblePants18 karma

How do you communicate with the local people? Do they speak English?

Uncle_Benon12 karma

I knew nothing going there. At all. Turned out English is the official language, which makes sense since England played such an big role in their history.

But that is not what they speak in the slums. For the most part it is Luganda (that's what the films are shot in), which is the dialect of the Buganda, Uganda's largest clan. Actors come from all over Uganda to work with Wakaliwood, and there are at least 7 or 8 different languages spoken. That's one of the reasons they do not use a written script. What language would it be in? Even if you chose one, there are varying degrees of literacy among the group.

Isaac (IGG) is great with English, as are many of the others. For the most part I am teaching them the language and me Luganda.

Scrub_Life2 karma

I know English is the official language, but isn't there a large swahili presence as well?

Uncle_Benon1 karma

It's spoken more in the Northern Uganda. And also the military/police...

LewisDodgsonHere6 karma

What's your favorite dinosaur?

Uncle_Benon6 karma

I just sold my Snarl dinobot to help put Isaac's kids in school so he can focus on finishing the new film. So right now, Triceratops are close to my heart.

Heckler65 karma

Hey man, I'm upstate at the moment and I'm just wondering if you have a movie release available to watch right now. I'm bored.

Uncle_Benon8 karma

This should start your day right.

greenmask6 karma

i love the blood spatter on the empty car after it got shot.

Uncle_Benon13 karma

Isaac believes cars and even buildings should bleed.

justicesquad5 karma

Do you fear of being typecast as the White Devil?

Uncle_Benon8 karma

I'm actually the good guy.

Gamernomics5 karma

So does this mean i can be a Ugandan movie star?

Uncle_Benon14 karma

The short answer is hell yes. Isaac needs many, many people from around the world who want to get eaten and killed. He talks about being an equal opportunity Cannibal.

The plan for the next film, a Cannibal Zombie Action movie that I believe will be the first US - Uganda co-production, is to have people be able to die at home, wherever in the world they are, and thru chromakey place them in Uganda.

The working title is Plan 9 From Uganda, because he loves what Ed Wood stood for (freedom, craziness, following your dream, no money, etc., etc.,), even though he has yet to see Plan 9 From Outer Space.

MrComedyHooligan2 karma

How can I be in is sacs movies? He sounds fucking awesome.

Uncle_Benon2 karma

it's the freakin best... we're gonna work out a way to chromakey people from around teh world who want to get eaten. but if youre in Uganda, you can get eaten for real...

pofish2 karma

If you ever need an actress over there, I'm your girl.

Uncle_Benon3 karma

I tell you, in the next action movie, the cannibal action zombie film, Isaac wants to make Uganda's first female action heroes. Like a dozen of them.

You can do it.... :)

sonotimpressed4 karma

What's something noteworthy that you've done?

Uncle_Benon6 karma

Introduced Guillermo del Toro to Ray Harryhausen.

Ben_Dadia4 karma

What do you think about Ramon film production?

Uncle_Benon3 karma

Ramon is Wakaliwood.

Tall_Rassman4 karma

Which actor would you most like to work with in the future?

Uncle_Benon14 karma

You know, I'm not an actor. I went there because I wanted to work with these guys, not to act. But when you are around them you just want to play. It's kinda like you're 12 years old and wiffle bats are light sabres.

But I think all of us would KILL to see someone like Van Dam, Stallone, or Schwartenegger, do a quick scene with them. The impact that would have.... They can even do it from the comfort of their own home via chromakey.

Tall_Rassman4 karma

All 3 of those sound like good picks for sure. Would be awesome. I am thinking Ugandan Expendables.

Uncle_Benon8 karma

To give you an idea how true that is, check this out Imgur. It's Wakaliwood's replica of Caesar's drum shotgun from The Expendables.

2seconddump4 karma

No question, just wanted to say you are rad as fuck! Keep doing what you do! :)

Uncle_Benon5 karma

It's them, man. I'm just pouring kerosene on their bonfire.

2seconddump4 karma

Haha, well you're lucky to be a part of something so awesome! How many people can day they've done what you've done? No one! Boosh! I'm sure its in your info/and or comments, I need to go read about how this all came to be. And your ex is probably missing out :/ you're adorable, talented, and interesting. Focus on this awesome part of your life and love will catch up later! :D

Uncle_Benon4 karma

best 2 second dump ever...

QuickManIsUnbeatable4 karma

Are you kinda sad that TEBAATUSASULA has been lost due to a power outage? Because I certainly am. :P

Uncle_Benon10 karma

I think they are going to remake it. Isaac went into a deep depression when he lost that film. He stayed inside for 3 months, then got out of bed, said, Screw This, got everyone together and they made The Return of Uncle Benon.

As a side note, I think Uncle Benon has the Guiness World Record for fastest film ever produced. The current leader is this film

They made a film from nothing to premiere in 10 days and 12 hours. Isaac and Wakaliwood made Uncle Benon from nothing to film, PLUS posters, DVDs, and distribution in the local markets in 6 days. With a single camera, computer, and only one person doing both the shooting and editing.

There are actors who were there on a Monday, and the next Monday they came back and were already selling another film.

TheGoodMachine-4 karma

For varying values of “film”.

I can make a “film” in 5 seconds with my phone… It’s not gonna be much of a film though… ;)

Uncle_Benon2 karma

That's true of course, but why would you think the South African feature meets the artistic criteria and not theirs...?

NF_3 karma

do you miss chipotle and pizza?

Uncle_Benon3 karma

i miss walking down city streets...

NF_3 karma

how is Ugandan food? generally good? what sort of thing is common?

Uncle_Benon11 karma

I'm gonna get in trouble for this. Isaac's wife, Harriet, prepares all the meals. And she is wonderful. But there is not that much variety. Alot of matoke, which is like a savory banana, all mashed up. Kikomando, which is brown beans mixed with chapati (thin bread) - it's name means Commando food because it's what poor youing men eat when they have nothing else and have to work all day. There's Rolex, which is diced tomato mixed with a beaten egg wrapped in chipati. Very little protein by way of meat. It's all fine, but I don't exactly get homesick for it.

Then I spent the day with the family of one of the actors, far from Wakaliwood. And we had fresh avocado, yams, white rice, three types of bananas, I don't know what the hell else, but it was freakin' amazing.

And then it hit me. Ugandan does have really good food. Harriet is just a bad cook. Wakaliwood does not have power right now so I can say these things :)

NF_0 karma

savory banana like a plantain? also, feel free to delete your comment ;)

it all looks like fun. i was watching some of the videos and i am amazed at how well spoken the kids are.

Uncle_Benon6 karma

...and these kids are growing up on a back-lot. The hundreds of children in the village are growing up around cameras and movie-making. If they do not become filmmakers themselves, as adults, they will support it. This is just the beginning...

thecyclingman3 karma

This is actually pretty hilarious, I'm going to gather much of it is intentional:

Uncle_Benon4 karma

Oh yeah. Isaac didn't tell me anything. In another scene he told me to steal a car and jump out of it. So I did, but no one knew we were shooting so I had to dodge all these people carry baskets with Isaac in the back seat with the camera cracking up. When I took off a crowd of people chased me, thinking something was wrong with me...

skyscraperdream3 karma

So you're still not really over the breakup?

Uncle_Benon8 karma

You know, I'm not sure how to answer that. It didn't feel right to put that in the heading, but I already posted it. I think this is the last time I bring it up. Regardless how I may feel, it is time to be over it.

woahasdf3 karma

How did you approach Wakaliwood for work?

Uncle_Benon18 karma

I just went. I saw the Who Killed Captain Alex trailer, and got the fastest plane ticket I could afford. I didn't even call or email. My only fear was that he wouldn't be there and out shooting, which is funny now because he films everything from his front yard.

My first day I was in Owino, which is this epic market that's acres long, selling spices, clothing, book bags, you name it. And out of the corner of my eye I saw someone standing in a crowd selling DVDs. The back of his shirt said Ramon Film Productions, but he was so far away I started running so as not to lose him. But then he started running because who's this white dude chasing him? He finally slowed down, and I introduced myself, and he was relieved I wasn't the Police, and he took me to meet Isaac and Wakaliwood.

It was about an hour's motorcycle ride. When I got there Isaac and his wife welcomed me into their home, and we sat and talked for 5 hours. about everything -distribution, the computers, favorite films, films he wants to make, etc, etc.

It was after midnight before I was back in my hotel, and my head was spinning. I called him up (he was still awake, of course, working), and said I want to work with you, but I also think I want to act. He goty real quiet and said, "Let me think about it." I thought that meant maybe yes, maybe no. What it really meant was, "Let me write a movie for you."

The next day he said to come by and meet everyone. And that's when I realized this was something special. There were dozens of people working in all different teams in unison - costumes, props, Kung Fu, actors. The day before I met a filmmaker, but when I saw this I realized it was a studio, run on hope, with children playing everywhere.

And that was it. Hooked for life.

weeever3 karma

Do you make a living doing this? How do you support yourself in uganda?

Uncle_Benon5 karma

I don't. It's my savings and credit cards, and whatever odd jobs I can find while in NYC. It doesn't cost much to be Uganda, and the goal is to make the films available. Once they are we'll regroup for the next leg of the Marathon, bringing them to the West.

Wicked813 karma

This was easily one of the most fascinating AMA's I have ever read - and you ARE quite yummy. . . and, yes, I am a female ~

Uncle_Benon3 karma

~~~~ uhhhhhhhh (calling up Uganda to see what to do)

Oldmanner3 karma


Uncle_Benon1 karma

It's coming....

slimypeas3 karma


Uncle_Benon6 karma

The idea for the film usually comes from Isaac, but it can come from anyone. It can even be just a character or situation. And then it's work shopped using improvisation until the arc is fleshed out and Isaac feels it's ready to shoot. It all changes again once they get the location, because it may be raining, an actor is sick, etc, etc.

There is no written script the way there usually is in the West. This is for a number of reason. One, there is a varying degree of literacy within the group, but also which language would they use? Actors come from all over Uganda, speaking many languages with different degrees of fluency. And if it's written in a notebook, how do you even duplicate it?

Isaac does storyboard the action scenes, but he relies on improv and spontaneity more than anything else. He loves being surprised when filming, as he believes that's the best way to create surprise in the audience. And you see it in the trailers. Often something interesting happens, a certain kick, or even a cow, and he starts following it.

InternetSpacePolice2 karma

Do they have orange juice in Uganda?

Uncle_Benon2 karma

Yep! Oranges are damn good there.

fendjag2 karma

Hey, I was in Uganda last summer, working in the UN base in Entebbe with my dad, I may be going back sometime, is it much of a journey from Entebbe to Wakaliwood?

Uncle_Benon2 karma

It's maybe an hour away from Kampala, less if you're using a motorcycle...

_aladynevertells_2 karma

Oh damn. Just wanted to say you have beautiful hair for a guy.

Uncle_Benon3 karma

Ah, so a lady responds...

ru5522 karma

Hey Alan, I got a green screen at home. I can contribute white guy footage for Isaac if he ever needs it.

Uncle_Benon3 karma

We're gonna do it. This first part of 2014 is dedicated to bringing the catalog of films to the world. The latter part is eating people.

Martin811 karma

Your facebook link does not work.

Uncle_Benon2 karma

logrusmage1 karma

What's up alan. This is Andrew. Just saying hi. I'll be buying a or five :)

Uncle_Benon1 karma


InvisiblePants11 karma

What are some Ugandan films that are worth watching?

Uncle_Benon5 karma

The other question is how to even get them. Filmmaking, or the "film industry", is less than 10 years old in Uganda. Isaac (IGG) has to convince people in his own country that his own country makes movies.

I'm uploading a commercial he made to let people know where Ugandans can find Ugandan movies... It's pretty funny and I'll post the link in a sec...

pursuingpurity1 karma

Really late response but great AMA! I'm curious how you support yourself in Uganda. You have mentioned living off of your savings. Do you have long-term plans? Have you considered getting a regular job there? Where do you live? In the slums? Does your ex-girlfriend know where you are/what you're doing now? Also, for the record, I'm Ugandan.

Uncle_Benon1 karma

man, that's alot of questions... :)

i'm living in the UG slum now, in the middle of a 6-month stint to get three films ready for distribution. the work's great, but awfully slow. and working as a journalist. just interviewed a cannibal musezi in Rakai. i have no idea what my ex knows. she made it clear she's moved on, and have not been in contact since...

Tall_Rassman1 karma

Biggest misconception about Uganda?

Uncle_Benon5 karma

I really didn't know anything before I went. I knew it was in East Africa, but beyond that I did not know what to expect. I can say I did not expect to feel so much love from everyone, but that comes from being in New York :)

[deleted]-2 karma


Uncle_Benon17 karma

We were doing a love scene, and between takes the girl leaned over to me and said, "I want a white baby." I thought that was a great line, and said we should use it. She looked into my eyes and said, "No. I want a white baby." I totally freaked out, Isaac yelled ACTION!, and I spent the next twenty minutes being schooled how to pick up women in Uganda by the male actors because, "I actually looked scared" in that scene.

TheGoodMachine3 karma

Man, I love stories like that.

What is picking up women in Uganda like? How do men act? How do women act?

Uncle_Benon3 karma

That is a whole other movie.... For real.