Who Killed Captain Alex: Uganda’s First Action Movie benefits more from a Wikipedia page than an actual review. This is one of the movies where a huge chunk of the appeal comes from factual context rather than actual substance.
So here it goes: Who Killed Captain Alex is a film made five years ago for under $200 and in one month by a guy named Nabwana IGG, who shot it in Wakaliwood, Uganda “Home of da Best of da Best Movies.” IGG never intended or expected the film to be seen outside of his immediate area (where it was a big hit), but now it’s playing at the Fantasia Film Festival. I am insanely jealous of anyone who gets to see it there.
As a film, Who Killed Captain Alex is plagued with the usual homemade, no budget hallmarks: Bad effects, awful blocking and choreography, people looking at the camera, etc. Most of it is just fighting and shooting, but when IGG needs to call upon real special effects, he goes for the green screen aided by superimposed elements that look even cheaper than CG attempts from local small town television commercials. By the time the film is over, however, all these demerits become part of its charm.
This is due largely to the film’s very bizarre narrator/commentary track by local Ugandan personality VJ Emmie, which single-handedly makes this the funniest film I’ve seen yet this year. Apparently, this sort of thing is a staple of film exhibition in Uganda. It’s new to me though.
It’s hard to explain how this works or why it’s so funny. Say, if a lady is on stage at a bar, you’ll hear (and read) the narrator telling her stuff like “Sing Dolly Parton! We love Dolly Parton!” or when troops are planning to build a base, he’ll offer joke lines instead of what they’re actually saying, like “Here is where we’ll put the girls. Over there, we’ll make a soccer field.” If someone takes a swig of beer, he supplies the drinking noise. I’m not really sure what kind of humor we’re dealing with here. The jokes aren’t funny, but they’re obnoxious in a hilarious way, like when your drunk uncle tries to make fun of a movie at Thanksgiving. While taking notes for this review, I quickly realized I could fill an entire notebook just quoting him. I fucking love it.
It doesn’t seem right to even go into the script issues on a movie that was made for under $200 and has an audio track making fun of it the whole time, but just from a narrative standpoint, Who Killed Captain Alex has problems all over the place that keep it from being one of those great films that rise above their own humble origins. For instance, IGG introduces Captain Alex’s brother about halfway through the film as this incredibly badass guy. The narrator, of course, does most of the heavy lifting here: “Ugandin Bruce Lee. We call him Bruce U. He just wants to be alone. To focus on vengeance.” Sounds great! Unfortunately, nothing really happens with him to warrant such a grand setup. He fights some guys at the end, and that’s about it. Stuff like that happens a lot.
With the narrator, Who Killed Captain Alex is a special experience aided by a compelling backstory. Without the narrator, it’s pretty much just that backstory. There isn’t enough here to make the film seem special on its own terms. That doesn’t really matter, though, since that’s not the film we’re talking about. Who Killed Captain Alex, in the form available to us now, has the narrator, which automatically makes it a must-watch as far as I’m concerned, especially if you can manage to watch it with a bunch of other people. Throw in the fact that it’s just over an hour long, and you have something truly wonderful on your hands.