Hugo Winter a roguish American drug smuggler, travels to Uganda in an attempt to export a large amount of Bulu, a sacred herb that grants the user visions of their future
‘Imperial Blue’ is an ambitious film that attempts to be many genres within one 90-minute movie, and that ambition is both its strength and its weakness. The film is the directorial debut of British director Dan Moss and it focuses on an American backpacker who, upon finding himself in debt, sees an opportunity to cultivate and import a mysterious drug from Uganda to the western world. This takes him from Mumbai in India to rural Uganda, where he finds his machinations intertwined with those of two sisters, both of whom have their own aspirations relating to this drug.
The reason this drug, known as ‘Bulu’, is so highly sought after, is due to its psychedelic powers which essentially give the user the gift of foresight, which takes ‘Imperial Blue’ into the science fiction realm. This factors into the narrative in several ways and I think the film sometimes betrays its own internal logic at times in terms of how this plays out – one of the main weaknesses this ambitious approach has. Nicolas Fagerberg plays the American protagonist Hugo and he plays the arrogant westerner well, and I liked how the film starts to focus more on the two sisters Angela and Kisakye, played by Rehema Nanfuka and Esteri Tebandeke, subverting to an extent the traditional narrative you’d perhaps expect when Hugo arrives. Tebandeke (Kisakye) in particular is really good and her talent deserves a wider showcase than I suspect this film will provide.
‘Imperial Blue’ has plenty going for it but ultimately, it’s too scattershot and messy to be wholly satisfying – the phrase ‘bitten off more than you can chew’ comes to mind. All the same, for anyone looking for something a little different, there are elements to enjoy in this movie.
Directed By: Dan Moss
Starring: Nicolas Fagerberg, Rehema Nanfuka, Esteri Tebandeke and Andrew Benon Kibuuka