Imperial Blue: The future is in Uganda - Raindance

Imperial Blue: The future is in Uganda

How it started

When we were teaching together at Kampala Film School in 2011, British director Dan Moss and I had little idea that, in a few years’ time, we would be working together on a psychedelic African fantasy thriller that would transform our lives. Fast forward to 2017 and we were running around the world, filming in the forests of western Uganda, urban India, and a dirty warehouse in west London. Another four years and a pandemic later, we are now proudly publicizing the release of Imperial Blue in the UK and the USA, with more territories to come.

We realized that in Uganda we could effectively shoot a million-dollar movie on a fraction of that budget. Although we paid the cast and crew a decent rate, the costs of everything from human resources to location management to equipment rental are far lower than the equivalent in the UK. And the locations themselves were also a key factor – Uganda is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. 

We started in 2016 with a seed fund of a few thousand pounds from a friendly philanthropist and doubled that with a crowdfunding campaign. We then emptied out our savings accounts and went to a more ambitious investor who doubled the combined total in the bank.  

The struggle

After shooting and editing the film, we thought we had overcome the biggest obstacles to success. We were wrong. It is one thing to shoot a film and another thing to sell it. We made comprehensive lists of thousands of relevant festivals and distributors and cold-called every single one of them. This exhausting process took up a large part of 2018-20. It was frequently disheartening, as call after mail after application met with negative responses. 

The chief problem with finding a good distributor was that we had “no cast”. As great as our actors are, they are completely unknown outside of Uganda. We swore to ourselves that we would never make another film without at least a cameo from a known actor. When we were applying for festivals, we encountered a different problem: people didn’t know where to put us. Imperial Blue is a bit too artistic to be classified as a “genre film” and a bit too action-packed to be called “arthouse”.

We also found ourselves floundering in the confusion of the contemporary culture wars. As we pitched Imperial Blue to African-focused festivals and distributors as an “African film”, the initial responses were often very favorable, until they saw that the director and lead actor were European. Although we were deliberately satirizing the “white man in Africa” genre, many people looked at our skin color and judged we were just that – a bunch of white guys making madcap movies in Africa. This was a big blow for the Ugandan cast and crew, who made up 90% of the team. We later explored this prejudice in a discussion piece for Start Magazine

Reaching success

As depressing as this all was, the highlights were dizzyingly exciting: the whirligig of the Cannes’ Marche de Filme; premiering at Raindance 2019; and finally meeting our distributor, Port Royal Media. Cannes film market was most useful in researching the industry and ascertaining where we stood relative to other productions. We emerged with a distribution deal with a small, friendly European company. The Raindance premiere was THE highlight of 2019. The screening was at a top West End cinema with a world-class projector and sound system. We sold out both screenings and were ecstatic to see the film in its full glory, lauded by supporters and film fanatics. The Raindance team was brilliant from start to finish and made this the unforgettable, valuable experience it deserved to be. Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to the premiere, and armed with the knowledge we had gained at Cannes, we went back to a handful of distributors for a final push. Port Royal Media really understood our movie and saw its potential. They gave us a great offer which included a top British publicist – crucial for securing reviews and trailer premieres on film sites. We managed to diplomatically wriggle out of our previous distribution deal (secured at Cannes) and pushed forward with Port Royal’s release schedule.

Our publicist managed to get us reviewed across the board, securing coverage from Mark Kermode, The Guardian, Mariella Frostrup at The Times and countless blogs in the UK and US, giving us a 75% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. After the February launch in the UK, our IMDB rating shot up, proving that people were actually watching the movie – and loving it! We’re now proudly preparing for the US release on 6th April and looking forward to the Ugandan red-carpet premiere in June, lockdown allowing.

The film is available now in the UK on Amazon, Sky Store and i-Tunes, and on all major US streaming platforms from 6th April.

Please check the links below for more information and follow our socials for updates. Massive THANKS to the Raindance community for all the love and support in realizing our dream.

Please check the links below for more informationfollow our socials for updates, and don’t forget to rate us on IMDB

Watch the Trailer: 

Other Links:

Behind the scenes clips

Official website

Socials: Facebook, Twitter

Profiles: Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB

Start Journal article on European-African co-productions



David Cecil is a film producer and music distributor based in Kampala, Uganda.