×

Kenya Picks Berlinale Crowd-Pleaser ‘Supa Modo’ as Its Oscar Hopeful

Likarion Wainaina’s “Supa Modo,” about a mother determined to bring joy to her dying daughter’s last days, is Kenya’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar race. The film, which world premiered in the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus program last February, was selected by the Kenya Film Commission on Friday.

Produced by Tom Tykwer’s Kenyan shingle, One Fine Day Films, and Kenya’s Ginger Ink, “Supa Modo” is the uplifting tale of a terminally ill girl whose village comes together to fulfill her dreams of becoming a superhero, convincing her she has special powers and casting her as the star of her very own movie. The film, which stars veteran actors Maryanne Nungo and Nyawara Ndambia alongside newcomer Stycie Waweru, earned a Children’s Jury Special Mention in Berlin.

“Supa Modo” is the sixth feature from One Fine Day Films and Ginger Ink, and their third Oscar hopeful, after 2012’s “Nairobi Half Life,” directed by Tosh Gitonga, and “Kati Kati,” by Mbithi Masya, which was submitted to the Academy last year. “Supa Modo” has enjoyed a lively run since its Berlin premiere, screening at more than 30 festivals around the globe.

“It’s been a very trying time for film and freedom of expression in this country,” said Ginger Wilson of Ginger Ink. “I hope this little film with a big heart catches the attention of the Academy and disproves the notion that feel-good films are impossible contenders for this category.”

For a country not known as a cinematic powerhouse, the race for this year’s Oscar nod in Kenya was surprisingly competitive, with “Supa Modo” beating out Wanuri Kahiu’s “Rafiki,” the lesbian love story that was banned by the Kenyan government just weeks before its world premiere in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard. The country’s film classification board said the film was an attempt to “legitimize lesbianism” in the East African nation, where homosexuality is illegal.

Last week, a judge temporarily lifted the ban, opening the door for “Rafiki” to be submitted for the foreign-language Oscar race, which requires that nominees must be shown in their country of origin for seven straight days. The film has played to sold-out screenings all week.

Kahiu tweeted her congratulations to the “Supa Modo” team after hearing the news on Friday. “What joy!!! We celebrate this beautifully, [sic] magical film,” she wrote.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content