Fantasia Reviews

[Fantasia 2023 Review] ‘Once Upon a Time in Uganda: A Charming documentary about filmmaking

‘Once Upon a Time in Uganda’ might go down as this year’s best documentary, that thankfully has a multilayered construct of how films are made in Uganda and a film lover’s dream to help the community to branch out over stateside and wider. Cathryne Czubek does a fine job directing this documentary showing us the ups and downs of the behind the scenes may not always be flattering to everyone involved making it a cutthroat and distinguished film. Many may believe that this film will heavily focus on the comedic takes from Wakaliwood as the film team call it in Uganda. Thankfully, it’s not all laughter and smiles.

Set in the heart of Uganda, ONCE UPON A TIME IN UGANDA centers on two unlikely friends from opposite sides of the world: visionary filmmaker Isaac Nabwana and film nerd Alan Hofmanis, who unite over their shared love of Chuck Norris and gonzo 80’s action flicks.


When we are first introduced to Alan Hofmanis who seems to think the world of himself, flies over to Uganda to meet with and try to help Isaac Nabwana who commands the screen every time you see him, you’re convinced he’s the real deal in the business of filmmaking. We love the fact that Isaac is influenced by the gonzo ‘80s films that were produced by Canon and films that starred Dolph Lungren and the likes of Sylvester Stallone and as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s those styles of films we love here at Infamous Horror as well.

There is an odd couple resemblance between Alan and Isaac that is sure to get in the way of film productions. However, before we get there, we see the full excitement of Alan Hofmanis’ persona change when he’s helping with ideas on set. Cathryne and Amanda’s writing is perfect to help create the feeling of companionship and heartbreaking moments between Alan and Isaac. In the second and third acts of the documentary there’s a lot of wake-up calls for everyone involved. That will take the audience aback a little bit, especially when Alan and Isaac’s friendship and partnership gets rough when Isaac grows distant from Alan. When Alan confronts Isaac about, we’re hit with the excruciating reality that Isaac does not need to tell Alan everything that is going on behind the production. This is one of the best documentaries of the year and it should be viewed on the big screen if you’re lucky enough to view it that way. Not enough credit can be given to the team involved for bringing us ‘Once Upon a Time In Uganda’. It’s a true must-see for all film lovers. 

Overall Grade: 3.5/5 Stars

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