By Hussein Kiganda
In a world where it is an abomination for women to be healers, Kela, a young village girl sets out to heal the leader of a local village, but unfortunately her menstruals set in. With a typical African setting and sounds, Kela is the most trending short film by a Ugandan director at the moment. It has an urban lighting format that makes one think it is either American or South African. The film was written and directed by Cissy Nalumansi, a multi award winning female writer and director in Kampala.
With her daily tea and bread being, “action”, “cut”, “look into the camera” and many other directions, she is one of the few female directors that have set the film industry ablaze. Her famous projects and collaboration, Umoja, Missing Nothing, Ensulo, Promises, The Inner war, The Village Champion, This Phone Era, Kela and many other projects have won her international recognition.
She is one of the writers of the famous TV dramas Sanyu and Mama and Me that are currently airing on Pearl Magic Prime. One of her documentaries called Creatives Under Quarantine was nominated in the Uganda Film Festival under the category of Best Documentary. These have won her funding from countries such as Belgium, Saudi Arabia and America.
She is currently working on projects like Namuddu, a feature film that is commissioned by Mnet and The Longest Night which is in is post production.
All this did not come in one day like Mana that God sent to the Israelites in the Bible. It grew from within her, right from her childhood. She started loving film right from her infancy. She loved watching movies and when her legs learnt their roles, she used to sneak into video halls (bibanda) to watch movies.
Born and raised in Abayita ababiri in Entebbe, a place best known for a good number of Ugandan movie translators like VJ KK The Best and VJ Jingo, the young Cissy could feel her talent calling, as she came closer to any video hall.
She grew up with her mother, Safiina Nabiranda, who would leave her in her small shop during her holidays, and the little girl would close it, borrow some coins from the safety box and rush to pay for a movie in a nearby video hall. She laughs at the canes she received for this.
The father factor that would have curbed her stubbornness was not with her. She grew up without her father, Duncan Kayanja, and because of this, she was a sort of a rebel at home. The burning itch of her adolescence went cold when serious studies set in. She became humble and religious, committed to read her books for the future.
The film director holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology. She went to Bwaise Primary School for her primary education, MK Crown Academy Nabweru and Caltec Academy for her secondary level and went to Makerere University where she attained her degree. She is currently a specialist in website designing, a job she carries to justify that she really did Information Technology, although her passion is in film.
Cissy ventured into the film industry in 2013, when she started writing stories and wanted to act them. When her mother realised, she took her to a friend called Dan Kiggundu who is a producer and director.
“I started in 2013 when my passion for film became Paramount. When my mother realised this, she took me to a director and producer called Dan Kiggundu, for whom I wrote many stories. Some of these never saw the lenses of any camera…,” she remembers.
Cissy says at first, the payment was not okay. She used to work for food and transport allowances. Such little pay changed her mother’s mind, and she thought she would take her to the army and she would earn more.
“Because there were no visible returns, my mother suggested that I join the army. She had connections with the then Minister of Defence so she thought it would be easy for me to join. I told her I could not, because I was too thin so any punch into my face would leave me dead…,” she narrates.
Having persistently refused to join the army, Cissy prayed hard and worked more to achieve better. She started making her own productions which became successful projects. Her breakthrough came with her movie, The Village Champion which went viral and its premier sold out.
“My breakthrough project was ‘the village champion’ which I did with Test for Uganda. When I premiered it, it was a full house at National theater. People paid highly and I even wondered where they were coming from. It got so much noise and people talked about it in all corridors. I became a heavy deal that even Oxford University invited me to the UK to make a fundraising premier in order to raise more money. I made it to raised money for Test for Uganda, an organisation that had paid my tuition at University…,” she narrates.
When she put some money in her pockets, Cissy thought of starting up a production company with a friend Semakula Mosese to help groom young people that are passionate about film, but also to tell authentic African stories from the African perspective. Her company is called Jungle Rains Productions.
Cissy dreams of putting up a high quality production studio that is capable of putting out in-house productions made from Uganda. According to her, the greatest challenge in Uganda is the quality of production and she hopes this is changing soon, since the country is embracing technology and more creativity. Cissy feels creatives have not been given attention by the Government. If it were up to her, she would put her focus on creatives if she were to be a political leader with decision making power.
She is constantly inspired by film star Charlize Therone and screenwriter Shonda Rhimes and she wants to host Keifer Sutherland and direct Tika Sumpter. In Uganda, she enjoys Loukman Ali’s visuals.