By Alex Roberts
There are small droplets of blood trailing unevenly up the white tiled stairs in the fabulous Hotel Arcadia. The mind leaps to bad conclusions before remembering that this is the film set of a murder mystery after all, and one should come to expect such strange sights. The blood is some sort of cornstarch, water and food coloring concoction; thick and viscous.
Downstairs in the magenta and ivory colored lobby, most of the cast and assorted crew are hard at work, running up cables, hiding lights behind pillars and playing keep away with the shadows and reflections that may interfere with the next shot. The actors tweak the buttons of tailored suits, mics are tucked away out of sight and lastminute direction is given for the next take- the air is chock full of that palpable creative energy.
The ‘who-done-it’ in question is the upcoming film Black Glove, a murder mystery of sorts that is positively drenched in Ugandan style and swag. Last week, as a slight drizzle fell causing enormous palm fronds to crash down into bushes within the vine-layered confines of the Big Kafunda bar, the cast sat in circles running lines with one another and getting the tailoring sewn up for the costume department. One could feel those sparks being struck, that maybe this thing can be pulled off. All film making is an alchemy, an undefinable cocktail of incredibly hard work, a bit of luck coming in the form of miracles and the very right people in the absolute correct positions to pull it off.
Such a venture can seem Quixotic and misguided during normal times, with one’s ideas receiving looks of doubt and something akin to pity from those not involved and who understand the vision until it comes blazing across the screen. Such challenges are a myriad of horrors during normal times- but this is 2020, and all things have been thrown into flux due to the COVID-19 crisis. The cast and crew rock masks on set emblazoned with ‘Sebamala Arts’ (the company behind Black Glove). There are whispered murmurs of how to duck the strict curfews imposed in Kampala- for how can a film obtain a proper night shot when the sun goes down at seven and you need to be back behind closed doors at home by nine? How can efforts be coordinated across borders, around overzealous bureaucrats while the specter of the pandemic lingers above everything like a fearful hammer of circumstance.
The production toils on, shooting in little side rooms and sapphire-lighted hotel hallways. Why? Everyone involved seems to see the potential within this production set and is bringing the A-Game to match it. The stakes are high, but then so is the aim- Black Glove is looking to be a new highwater mark for the Ugandan film industry- an all UG production start to finish that will have the sexy allure of a top end fashion film/crime thriller to attract major players in the international film market. The last few days have served as a sort of springboard for shooting- a tone setter for the rest of the production to come. Being on set, one can feel it starting to blend in together, starting to meld; to work. There is an excitement in the air- that Black Glove is starting to shape into something substantial for the Kampala film scene. The drops of stand-in blood seem to be leading to a game changing piece of East African cinema and more is yet to come…