By Ahmad Muto
Uganda and U.S. movie streaming platform, Netflix are fast becoming the duo synonymous with blockbusters. The latest addition to their movie catalogue with a Ugandan touch is Chimp Empire filmed at the Kibaale National Park in Western Uganda, billed as the best place to track chimps in the world, narrated by Oscar award winner Mahershala Ali. It waltzed its way to the ‘family friendly’ category debuting at number one on Wednesday, April 19, 2023.
Its trailer shared on the platform a month ago was very telling of the what the real film was to embody in full length. Chimpanzees, the closest living relatives of humans depict the tension, competitive spirit and ambition that characterize their daily lives.
The well thought through maneuvers, not far off from humans with territory and control of resources in the wilderness being the ultimate goal, more like how humans play the game of economics and politics side by side.
Ali’s storytelling ability, the diction, plus the sound effects make this film one and a half years of filming starting two years ago in the thick belly of the park worthwhile. The trailer alone on YouTube got 1.2 million views in a month.
Oscar winner, James Reed with his thick resume and rich experience navigating and telling stories about Africa’s wilderness directed the Chimp Empire. Worth noting is he was co-director on Oscar winner My Octopus Teacher filmed in South Africa, released in 2020 – how a filmmaker gets to establish a relationship with an Octopus.
Family friendly films according to Netflix are becoming tourism promotion campaign fodder especially for family trips and, Uganda particularly has this as a gem to market itself as a primate destination in particularly, but also as a tourist destination in general.
The last one year and a half have seen either films short by Ugandan filmmakers or short in Uganda hit big on Netflix. Cinematographer Loukman Ali’s The Girl In The Yellow Jumper made it to Netflix in 2021, Uganda’s first. He was commissioned by the platform to work on another, Katera Of The Punishment Island this year as part of six Netflix African stories.