Young Africans’ Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations.

The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the region, which has never received an Academy Award nomination.

Ethiopia has chosen Jan Philipp Weyl’s “Running Against the Wind,” the story of two brothers whose lives take very different paths when they decide to follow their dreams – one to become an Olympic runner, the other a photographer. It features a cameo by gold medal-winning distance runner Haile Gebrselassie.

Shot in Ethiopia’s native language, Amharic, which Weyl speaks, the movie is an Ethiopian-German Co-Production produced by Negarit Film Academy & Productions and AC Independent Film in association with R&B Film. It’s Ethiopia’s fourth submission since 2010 for what was formerly known as the foreign-language Oscar.

“I made the film in order to show the world the country of Ethiopia, the people, the culture and ethics and traditional values through the eyes of two young men who are willing to fight for their dreams and goals in life,” said Weyl. “The film is to inspire the current generations from all over the world by the two main characters who are trying to reach their aims and desires regardless of their life circumstances.”

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Uganda has selected “Kony: Order From Above,” by T. Steve Ayeny, as its first-ever Oscars contender. Inspired by true events, the film tells the story of two teenagers who fall in love amid the violent insurgency of rebel leader Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

Produced by Atonga Media/Entertainment and Quad-A Records, the film premiered at the Zanzibar Intl. Film Festival, where the director won the Best East African Talent Award.

Kenya’s candidate, “Subira,” by Indian-born, Nairobi-based filmmaker Ravneet Chadha, is a coming-of-age story about a young Muslim woman who defies tradition and gender stereotypes to pursue her dream of swimming in the ocean.

Based on a 2007 short of the same name, the Kenya-Denmark co-production was produced by Kaaya Films and Muasya Media Enterprises. It marks the fourth Kenyan submission since 2012.

This year’s ceremony will take place 50 years after Costa-Gavras won the foreign-language Oscar for the Algerian-French political thriller “Z.” Only two African films have been honored by the Academy in the years since, most recently South African director Gavin Hood’s “Tsotsi” (2005).

The 92nd Academy Awards will be held Feb. 9, 2020.

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