Jailed Ugandan Actor Wins African Oscar


Originally posted on The Critic

By Polly Kamukama

Currently in jail on multiple charges, Hassan ‘Spike’ Isingoma’s star shone so bright at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in South Africa as the teenage Ugandan actor scooped Best Young/Promising Actor award. The 19-year-old actor won the award courtesy of his compelling performance as lead character Abel – a young man given the responsibility of fending for his family riding a bodaboda (motorcycle commuter) – in the film Boda Boda Thieves.

He shared the prestigious gong with Nigerian actress Kemi Lala Akindoju for the film Dazzling Mirage. Isingoma, whose charismatic performance in the film was surprisingly overlooked at last month’s Uganda Film Festival (UFF) awards, is currently incarcerated at Luzira Maximum security prison on a string of serious offenses ranging from murder to robbery.

According to his mentor and Boda Boda Thieves director, Donald Mugisha, Isingoma’s case is ‘very complicated’ and the young actor faces a sentence of not less 10 years behind bars. Reacting to news of the AMAA win, Mugisha said he hoped it would inspire the young actor to abandon his criminal life and focus on building a career as an actor.“I would personally love to work with him again because he is a very talented and passionate actor. He would however have to first promise to change his ways,” Mugisha told us in an exclusive interview earlier today. The 33-year-old filmmaker said he hoped Isingoma, who became a father at the age of 15, would take some time off in his cold prison cell to reflect on his past mistakes.

Born and raised in the rough Kamwokya ghettos, it appears Isingoma fell in with the wrong crowd at a very early age.His father, a petty thief, was killed by an angry mob after a botched heist, and his mother sold drugs to support the family. At the tender age of eight, right about the time Mugisha scouted him for his first film Divizionz; Isingoma joined a notorious local gang calling themselves the Beach Boys. The gang has a sadistic modus operandi in which its younger members are used as bait to start trouble, after which the older gangsters join in to beat and rob victims.

During the production of Boda Boda Thieves, Mugisha grew tired of having to halt filming time after time because Isingoma was either in jail or too high to act. Some of the film’s scenes had to be done with a doppelganger, Mugisha has previously revealed. Now, Isingoma can only celebrate his huge victory in a cold prison cell while awaiting a trial he will likely lose.

Only two Ugandans were in the running for the ‘Africa Oscar’ this year. Isingoma’s Boda Boda Thieves co-star, Prosy Rukundo, lost out to Ghanaian actress Ama Amphofo from the movie Devil in Detail in the Best Supporting Actress category. Timbuktu, the hard-hitting Mauritanian film on Islamic extremism, showed off its might by emerging the biggest winner of the night with three gongs including Best Film.

At the glamorous ceremony hosted in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the first time in the annual awards’ 11-year history to hold outside Nigeria, it turned out to be a very disappointing night for local gangster film, iNumber Number, as it could only manage to win one of its 12 nods. Hot-selling Nigerian drama-thriller and crowd favourite October 1 by Kunle Afolayan, meanwhile squeezed in just two wins.

Uganda has a very poor record at Africa’s most prestigious film awards, but Mugisha is hopeful Isingoma’s victory will bring with it some inspiration.

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