Dilman Dila

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Dilman Dila
BornDilman Dila
(1977-12-31) 31 December 1977 (age 41)
Tororo, Uganda
OccupationFilm maker, writer
Alma materMakerere University
Notable worksCranes Crest at Sunset, The Felistas Fable

Dilman Dila is a Ugandan writer, film maker[1][2] and a social activist.[3] He is the author of a collection of short stories, A Killing in the Sun,[4] and of two novellas, Cranes Crest at Sunset,[5] and The Terminal Move.[6][7] He was shortlisted for the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for "A Killing in the Sun",[8] longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa prize, 2013,[9] and nominated for the 2008 Million Writers Awards for the short story "Homecoming".[10] He was longlisted for the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition with his first radio play, Toilets are for Something Fishy.[11] His film The Felistas Fable (2013)[12] won four awards at the Uganda Film Festival 2014,[13][14] for Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Feature Film, and Film of the Year (Best Director). It won two nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards for Best First Feature by a Director, and Best Make-up Artist.[15] It was also nominated for the African Magic Viewers Choice Awards for Best Make-up artist, 2013.[16] His first short film, What Happened in Room 13, is one of the most watched African films on YouTube. In 2015, he was longlisted for the Inaugural Jalada Prize for Literature for his story "Onen and his Daughter".[17]

Early life and education[edit]

Dilman was born in Tororo, Uganda, on 31 December 1977. He grew up with his family on Bazaar Street, which harboured a multitude of cultures and nationalities. It is exposure at an early childhood to different stories from different tribes that gave him a strong foundation in storytelling.[18] He attained primary education at Rock View Primary School, and secondary education at St. Peter's College, Tororo, before proceeding to Makerere University, where he did a BA in Social Sciences, majoring in Political Science (International Relations) and Economics.

Upon completing his university degree, he worked for human rights organisations, and for non-government developmental agencies for eight years, an experience that not only made him a social activist, but provided him with material for his writing and filmmaking.[19]


He was introduced into storytelling at an early age by the folktales that he used to hear from his parents, and from fellow children, in the town he grew up in, Tororo.[18] He started writing when he was 15 years old.[20] His first works appeared in print in The Sunday Vision in 2001,[21] and have since featured in several e-zines and book anthologies. These include The African Roar anthology in 2013,[22] Storymoja, and Gowanus Books.[23]

He writes speculative fiction, especially in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. The story that won a shortlist with the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, "A Killing in the Sun", is a ghost tale.[4][21] He published his first science fiction story, Lights on Water, in The Short Anthology.[24] In 2014, he launched his first collection of speculative short stories, during the Storymoja Festival, in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 2013, he was shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize[25][26] and longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize.[27]

In 2013, he facilitated a short-story surgery workshop, together with Alexander Ikawah, in collaboration with Commonwealth Writers,[28] at the Storymoja Hay Festival.[29][30] and in 2014 he was a mentor in the Writivism project.[31] He returned to the Storymoja Festival, where he was a festival guest in 2014, conducting a masterclass with Prajwal Parajuly.

In 2013, the San Diego State University included his short story "Homecoming", in its syllabus for an English course.[32]

Film making[edit]

Dilman Dila is a self-taught film maker.[20] He however greatly benefited from the Maisha Film Lab, where he learned the craft from experienced mentors from Indian Cinema, and from Hollywood.[33] He attended five different labs with Maisha, spanning a period from 2006 until 2008, in the areas of screenwriting and directing, for both fiction and documentary. The other trainings he attained include the Durban Talent Campus 2008,[34][35] MNet Screenwriters Workshop in 2009,[36] European Social Documentary International in 2012,[37] and Berlinale Talents in 2014.[38]

Many regard his first short film, What Happened in Room 13 (2007), featuring the famous comedians Ugandan Richard Tuwangye, Anne Kansiime, Veronica Namanda, Hanningtong Bujingo, and Gerald Rutaro, as a masterpiece from Uganda's young industry. The Young Ones Who Won't Stay Behind (2008) was his first collaboration with the world-famous film maker Mira Nair. Dila spent two years in Nepal, after receiving funding from Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), to work with local organisations on film making for social change. While there, he made several documentaries. Untouchable Love (2011) was selected for IDFA's Docs for Sale, 2011,[39] where it picked a UK-based distributor. With The Sound of One Leg Dancing (2011), he won The Jury Award at the Nepal International Indigenous Film Festival in 2012.[40] The Dancing Poet (2012) made its debut at the We Speak, Here online festival in 2014.[41] The two years in Nepal helped him to hone his craft, before he felt that the next stories he wanted to package and send out into the world were explicitly African in makeup, even if they came from a shared perspective that informed his earlier work.[42]

His first narrative feature, The Felistas Fable (2013)[43] won two nominations at the Africa Movie Academy Awards for Best First Feature by a Director, and for Best Make-up Artist[44][45] It was also nominated for the African Magic Viewers Choice Awards 2014 for Best Make-up Artist.[16]

Published works[edit]


  • A Killing in the Sun. Black Letter Media. 2014. ISBN 9780987019875.
  • Cranes Crest at Sunset. Storymoja Publishers. 2013. ISBN 9789966001818.
  • The Terminal Move. Fox & Raven Publishing. 2013. ISBN 9780987008985.

Short story collections[edit]

Short stories[edit]

  • "Onen and his Daughter" in Jalada, 2015
  • "Lights on Water", in The Short Anthology, 2014
  • "The Puppets of Maramudhu", in Emmanuel Sigauke, ed. (2013). African Roar 2013. StoryTime. ISBN 9780987008985.
  • "The Broken Pot", in Karen Jennings, ed. (2013). Feast, Famine & Potluck. Short Story Day Africa. ISBN 9780620588867.
  • "Billy is Three Weeks Dead", in Ann Dawson, ed. (2006). Dead Men (and Women) Walking. Bards and Sages. ISBN 9781847289063.
  • "Stones Bounce on Water", Storymoja.com, April 2011
  • "The Young Matchmaker" in The Kathmandu Post, 4 July 2010
  • "In Search of a Smoke", Gowanus Books, 2007
  • "Homecoming", Gowanus Books, 2007, and nominated for the 2008 Million Writers Award: Notable Online Fiction of 2007
  • "Fragments of Canvas", in Dark Fire, January 2005
  • "Lights on Water", in The Short Story anthology, 2014
  • "Bloodline of Blades", in ShadowSword, October 2005
  • "Stu's Honeymoon", in The Swamp, 2004
  • "Death in the Moonlight", in The Sunday Vision, May 2001
  • "The Campaign Agent", in The Sunday Vision, May 2001
  • "The Soldier's Wife", in The Sunday Vision, February 2001
  • "The First War", in The Sunday Vision, January 2001




  • What Happened in Room 13 (2007, Uganda), 18 minutes, film
  • The Young Ones Who Won't Stay Behind (2008, Uganda), 15 minutes, documentary
  • How Will I Get a Drink? (2007, Uganda), 5 minutes, documentary


  • After the Silence (2006, Uganda), 34 minutes, film

Awards and recognition[edit]


  • Longlisted for BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition 2014[11]
  • Shortlisted Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013
  • Longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa prize, 2013
  • Nominated for the 2008 Million Writers Awards: Notable online fiction.



  1. ^ Exploring the Ugandan Film Scene: Talking Movies with Director Dilman Dila ignitechannel.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  2. ^ Participants berlinale-talents.de. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  3. ^ Books they read-Dilman Dila, 22 October 2011 monitor.co.ug. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b Anjellah Owino, "Soldiers story 'A Killing in the Sun' launched", Standard Digital, 27 September 2014.
  5. ^ Anjellah Owino, "Is there a chick-lit gap in African literature?", Standard Digital, 30 March 2014.
  6. ^ Interview / Dilman Dila foxandraven.co.za. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  7. ^ Double Review: The Terminal Move and Project Hydra (Fox and Raven Publishing) davebrendon.wordpress.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  8. ^ Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013 Shortlist commonwealthwriters.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  9. ^ The Longlist shortstorydayafrica.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  10. ^ Editor nominations for 2008 Million Writers Award, storysouth.com. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Shortlist and Longlist", BBC World Drama.
  12. ^ Dilman Dila’s Felista arrives observer.ug. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  13. ^ Andrew Kaggwa, "Uganda: Felista's Fable Dominates Film Awards", AllAfrica, 31 August 2014.
  14. ^ a b Polly Kamukama, "Felistas reigns supreme at film awards", The Critic, 1 September 2014.
  15. ^ "AMAA Nominations announced in Johannesburg", ama-awards.com. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  16. ^ a b 2014 AMVCA Nominees Announced africamagic.dstv.com. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  17. ^ "Longlist for the Inaugural Jalada Prize for Literature". Jalada. 5 April 2015. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  18. ^ a b http://www.foxandraven.co.za/2013/10/07/interview-dilman-dila/
  19. ^ https://ignitechannel.com/articles/culture/exploring-ugandan-film-scene-talking-movies-director-dilman-dila/
  20. ^ a b "When Film Imitates Art", startjournal.org. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  21. ^ a b Dilman Dila, "Ghost tales on the road to Nairobi"
  22. ^ 42. African Roar 2013 by Emmanuel Sigauke (Editor), freduagyeman.blogspot.com. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  23. ^ "About Me", dilmandila.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  24. ^ The Short Anthology.
  25. ^ "5 AFRICANS MAKE COMMONWEALTH SHORT STORY PRIZE 2013 SHORTLIST", africa-ontherise.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  26. ^ Five Africans on the shortlist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013, sarabamag.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  27. ^ http://shortstorydayafrica.org/the-longlist-feast-famine-and-potluck/,
  28. ^ "Short story surgery led by Ugandan writer Dilman Dila, 2013 Storymoja Hay Festival", Commonwealth Writers, 6 November 2013.
  29. ^ Storymoja Short Story Workshop by Dilman Dila, commonwealthwriters.org. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  30. ^ Alexander Ikawah, Dilman Dila, Temo Buliro, Stanley Gazemba and Timothy Kimutai, hayfestival.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  31. ^ http://writivism.com/?p=825
  32. ^ Dilman Dila, "This Has Been a Good Year".
  33. ^ “If we don’t tell our stories, no one else will” nalakagunawardene.com. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  34. ^ http://www.berlinale-talents.de/campus/talent/rukuka-byaruhanga2/profile?pos=
  35. ^ http://disabilityunit.ukzn.ac.za/index.php/archive/52-29th-diff-2008-talent-campus.html
  36. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 August 2014. Retrieved 23 June 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ "/esodoc-international-participants". issuu. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  38. ^ http://www.berlinale-talents.de/campus/talent/byaruhanga-rukukadilmandila/profile?pos=5
  39. ^ "Untouchable Love", idfa.nl. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  40. ^ "The Sound of One Leg Dancing", tnff.ca. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  41. ^ http://www.cultureunplugged.com/
  42. ^ "Changing lives through film", newvision.co.ug. Retrieved 12 June 2014.
  43. ^ Preview 'The Felistas Fable' (Contemporary Ugandan 'Beauty & The Beast' Folk Tale), indiewire.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  44. ^ "Film: Uganda Loses Out On AMAA Oscars", chimpreports.com. Retrieved 10 June 2014.
  45. ^ "AMAA 2014: Joselyn Dumas, Shirley Frimpong, others nominated", viasat1.com. Retrieved 13 June 2014.

External links[edit]