Andrew Benon Kibuka: Four decades in the film industry and still going

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Andrew Benon Kibuka: Four decades in the film industry and still going
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A wise man once said, “Good money makes good art, and good art makes good money.”

Legend, patriarch, and seasoned actor Andrew Benon Kibuuka delves into his passion for art, on yet another episode of MultiChoice Uganda’s Home of Our Stars Podcast, Season 2, with Flavia Tumusiime.

Back in the 1980s, a time when film was viewed as a futuristic medium and the limited entertainment options included only a TV and radio, of which TV only started started broadcasting at 6 pm, theatre was the premier form of amusement.

Dominating Uganda’s entertainment scene were the Kampala Drama Actors, who would later evolve into the renowned Bakayimbira Drama Actors.

Among these stars is Andrew Benon Kibuuka, a distinguished figure in both film and theatre.

With a career spanning over 40 years, Kibuuka has appeared in more than 100 productions as an actor and directed over 150 creations. He shares his journey into the world of acting:

“After completing senior six, I teamed up with two friends from high school, Charles James Senkubuge and Aloysius Matovu, and we joined the Kampala Drama Actors, which was founded by Katete. When he went into exile in Nairobi, being one of the senior members at the time, Kibuuka helped lead the transition of our group to what is now known as the Bakayimbira Drama Actors,” Kibuuka recalls.

Kibuuka reflects on the challenges they faced in making their theatrical work accessible to the public, hindered by the scarcity of venues. “Back then, the National Theatre was the only functioning venue and it was always heavily booked. It took us three years to secure a slot for our performance,” he explains.

He also shares a telling anecdote that highlights the long road the film industry has traveled.

“When we attempted to film one of our productions for the first time, the videographer came with his camera and microphones and recorded everything. Unfortunately, when we reviewed the footage the next day, it only showed feet. We had to redo the entire thing, which was quite a hectic ordeal,” Kibuuka recounts, illustrating that, back in the day there were technical struggles in the industry.

Kibuuka notes significant improvements over time.

“When we first began filming Kigenyagenya, we would deliver the episode on the morning of the day, when it was set to air that evening. How things have changed,” he marvels, adding, “Now, with new systems and industry players like MultiChoice Uganda and Mnet, they require 30 or more episodes in hand before the season can even start airing, which has significantly elevated our professionalism.”

However, Kibuuka observes that these advancements have come at a cost to traditional theatre.

“Back in the day, theatre faced no competition and thrived in that landscape. But as films from Nollywood and Bollywood began to enter the market, and eventually Hollywood, theatre struggled to adapt. It had grown complacent due to high demand and was unprepared for the shift, ultimately being left behind as these new forms of entertainment took precedence.”

Fast forward to many years later, Kibuuka is now a legend and a seasoned actor in the field featuring in very many productions.

“I got into Beloved through my brother who is a close friend to Nathan Magoola, the producer. When they reached out to me, they explained the role and I was cast in the role of Justus Kaya.”

Kibuuka further explains that with his experience and age, he never auditions to give opportunities to younger actors.

“I don’t audition, you either know me and what I am capable of through the work I have done, I always leave the auditioning to younger people.”

Kibuuka draws on his extensive experience, having worked alongside celebrated actors like Idris Elba in the film Sometime in April.

D espite these highlights, Kibuuka acknowledges the inherent challenges of his profession.

“Memorizing lines can be particularly tough, especially when you’re dealing with around 13 scenes in a single day. Keeping all those lines in your head is no small feat. Moreover, acting is an art that demands mastery, and not many can handle it,” he explains.

When discussing which character he feels most aligned with, Kibuuka identifies closely with Justus Kaya from Beloved.

“Like Kaya, I am a workaholic deeply devoted to my family.”

He also sets firm boundaries when it comes to performing nude or romantic scenes.

Kibuuka is optimistic about the future prospects of the industry, expressing confidence in the ongoing developments.

“The industry is advancing rapidly. In the future, film will grow even stronger. While some might believe that theatre is fading, it’s important to remember that many of today’s successful film actors started in theatre. As we move forward, we’ll likely see film talents bringing new life to theatre," he remarks, highlighting the improved quality of current productions.

“With the increased professionalism in picture, sound, and talent, and thanks to contributions from powerhouses like MultiChoice and Mnet, the quality of the art we produce is exceptional.”


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