This Thursday was my first day to reach home before 7pm in a period of 14 months I have spent in Kawempe, Mbogo. This day, by 4pm I was home and I had already finished freshening up. I was intending to relax at home the whole evening but my rest was constantly disturbed by the sound of an interpreted movie showing in nearby Triple SJ Cinema Hall, Kawempe Mbogo.
Because of the irresistible urge to taste the Ugandanised movies, I decided to visit Triple SJ and enter in the books of this famous Cinema Hall in Mbogo.
At the entrance is a wooden bench where the Hall manager sits while collecting the fees from the moviegoers. Kigozi, the manager of triple SJ is seated on his bench and when he sees me branch to his hall, he stands up and when I finally reach him, he suspiciously welcomes me with a feigned smile, I guess wondering what I want at his hall.
I later leant that Kigozi knows all his clients and any new comer is suspected to be an official from Uganda Video Hall Owners Association. The Association usually sends its officials who go around closing substandard video halls.
“How much is a movie?” I ask Kigozi. “200 shillings,” was his answer. 200 shillings? I got surprised though I didn’t say anything at the difference in rates between the affluent Cinema halls in town and this one.
A movie at Cineplex along Wilson road in Kampala city goes for between 5000 and 7000 shillings while Cineplex Garden City branch a movie ranges between 10,000 and 15,000 shillings depending on how a particular movie is liked.
Inside the Triple SJ cinema hall, I was greeted by the charts of prominent movie actors such as Bruce lee, Rambo and Nigerian actors Zack Orgi and Genevieve Nnaji.
The audience is as you guessed of lower income class, with some in slippers and children as young as four years are bare footed but appear to be enjoying the movie (‘rain on me’), a Nigerian movie, judging from their motionlessness stature, with all eyes glued on the screen.
The floor of the hall is not cemented and is dusty, but the occupants seem not to be bothered. May be because the entrance fee is as low as the standard of the hall and the customers have no reason to demand a better environment.
Deo Kirumira one of the people I found in the hall says that to him, the standard of the hall does not matter. “What I want is good movies, which are action packed and interpreted to Luganda,” said Kirumira.
To Kirumira and his wife Jolly, triple SJ cinema hall is an entertainment and ‘time killing joint’ (leisure), which is affordable to any Ugandan. Jolly who is still childless, says that staying at home alone from morning to evening is very boring, the reason she closes her house and goes to triple SJ for a movie regularly.
Jolly Kirumira does not enjoy any movie though. Each movie she watches has to be interpreted by the Kajjansi boys because according to her, English spoken in movies is harder to understand. Kajjansi boys is the interpreting house which buys original movies and interpret them to Luganda, a local language widely spoken across Uganda.
Translating from English to Luganda is not the only reason why these movies are popular in most suburbs in Kampala. According to Moses Twinamashiko, a dry cleaner and an ardent customer around and of triple SJ cinema hall, interpreted movies are very interesting, more than original ones because they are spiced up.
Twinamashiko says that the interpreter relates most things to the local environment by assigning actors and places common Ugandan names. This makes the viewers understand the movie and feel more attached to it.
The manager of triple SJ, Kigozi, says that interpreted movies cater for the customers who find it had to comprehend English. He adds that when a movie is interpreted, everyone benefits and the intended message is delivered hence making the movie more meaningful.
The legality of interpreting movies to secondary languages is however in balance. Ibrahim Ssebagala, the operations manager of Uganda Music Publishers Association, says that modifying one’s works without their (creator’s) authorization is illegal and should not be entertained by anyone.
Ssebagala says that since in the music industry it is not allowed to remix music, it should as well be illegal to interpret movies to other languages because it exposes the movie to being altered to mean something else.
However, whether its legal or not to interpret movies, in Uganda the copyright laws are still too weak to address this concern. And the international laws on copyright according to Ssebgala were suspended in Low Developed Countries like Uganda until 2017. Therefore Ugandans have yet more years of enjoying interpreted movies, commonly known as enjogerere.
Apart from being more entertaining to even the uneducated Uganda because of interpreting everything in the movie, this new trend is providing credible employment to many creative Ugandans who have found a gold mine in interpreting movies.