Fantasia 2017: Wakaliwood’s BAD BLACK, Most Unexpendable Ugandan Movie!

Two years ago reviewing Fantasia Fest 2015, our man James Carey was blown away by Who Killed Captain Alex, the ultra-low budget, tongue-in-cheek, Ugandan-made action film from newcomer Nabwana Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey (IGG). Created for a couple hundred bucks in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Wakaliga in Kampala, Uganda, Who Killed Captain Alex was like nothing ever seen before, and introduced whimsically-named studio “Wakaliwood” to American audiences.

Nabwana IGG and his cohorts crafted a no-budget action-comedy with few resources other than a willing cast and crew — the epitome of DIY impetus and aesthetic. The film’s action sequences became instantly recognized by their crude CGI helicopters and explosions, but the biggest treat and most critical aspect of its success was the hilarious Video Joker (VJ) track, providing both jokes and commentary about the on-screen happenings, and occasional reminders of the name of the movie and studio. Thickly accented cries of “Best of da best action movie!”, “Supa action!”, and “Expect da unexpectable!” quickly became the film and studio’s calling card.

Bad Black follows suit, bringing back everything fans loved about Who Killed Captain Alex along with some new improvements, particularly a much more interesting story. For all of Captain Alex’s appreciable qualities, it was never about a strong narrative. The film’s impressive genesis, undeniable humor, and novelty factor largely compensated for a thinly plotted conflict between cops and thugs.

Bad Black is actually rather epic, kicking off with a mysterious and action-packed prologue that eventually settles on following a young orphaned girl who kills her Fagin-like gang boss and takes over his squad of kids. Years later, she’s the secretive kingpin (queenpin?) of the slums, operating under the codename “Bad Black”. Her identity is unknown to law enforcement, but an open secret in the slums where she is revered.

When a rich developer plans to raze the slums, leaving its inhabitants homeless, Bad Black springs into action with a plan to seduce him and sabotage his finances. It’s a meaty and satisfying narrative that offers a lot of cool surprises and revelations, as well as offer some social criticism of the extreme disparity of wealth in Kampala.

Of course, VJ Emmie is back with lots of quotable quips and battle cries. “Ugandan Schwarzenegger!”, “Supazilla!” and “China in Uganda!” will doubtlessly find their way into fans’ lexicon. Emmie offers hilarious observations on love and women in Uganda, and even gets meta with the audience, making references to the Alamo Drafthouse theater where Wakaliwood has found success at Fantastic Fest.

The film isn’t without weaknesses — a meandering subplot about an American doctor who learns kung fu adds more silliness but doesn’t really go anywhere — but Bad Black brings all the low-budget fun and crazyness of Who Killed Captain Alex, while also elevating beyond mere novelty factor and offering a much more satisfying experience.

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