BY BILLY SUTER
TELEVISION publicists are not averse to waxing lyrical about shows they are promoting, so when Showmax media publicist Kevin Kriedemann put his neck out to ring the praises of a movie currently on the internet TV service I took it with a grain of salt.
But he had facts to back it up – the movie had won more than 50 awards, including from A-list festivals such as that in Berlin, and had also received a rare 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
He also spoke from the heart about the film, saying: “I’d appreciate any help in getting the word out about this movie, partly because I adored it personally, and partly because I think it’s really important that South Africa doesn’t remain so cut off from all the exciting things happening culturally across the rest of the continent at the moment”.
He added: “It is important that when great African films are finally available here, a business case starts to emerge for more of them to get bought in. Preach over; sorry!”
Produced by Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run, Perfume, Babylon Berlin), the film is the multi-award-winning Kenyan superhero saga, Supa Modo, which the Toronto International Film Festival labelled “a stunning reminder of the power of imagination”.
Now streaming first on Showmax in Africa. The movie tells of Jo (Stycie Waweru), a witty, nine-year-old, terminally ill girl obsessed with Jackie Chan movies.
When she is taken back to her rural village to live out the rest of her short life, her only comfort is her dream of being a superhero – a dream her rebellious teenage sister Mwix (Nyawara Ndambia), overprotective mother Kathryn (Marrianne Nungo) and the entire village of Maweni think they can fulfill.
Awards taken by Supa Modo include being named Best European Film For Children by the European Children’s Film Association, It also won the Artistic Bravery Prize at the Durban International Film Festival; and the Audience Award at the Jozi Film Festival.
Variety called the movie “a tender, bittersweet fable,” while The Seattle Times reviewer wrote: “I’m glad movie theatres are dark because I ugly-cried my way through all 74 minutes of Supa Modo. I straight-up bawled my eyes out… Brutal and beautiful, melancholy and joyous, Supa Modo is simultaneously crushing and uplifting”.
The initial idea was to give African filmmakers an opportunity to write and produce their own stories, and, under the mentorship of experienced filmmakers, reach an international audience.
Since then, One Fine Day Films, in cooperation with DW Akademie, has trained more than 1 000 filmmakers from 21 African countries, and, with their Nairobi-based partner Ginger Ink, has released six award-winning feature films.
“What’s the harm in a little pretending?” That’s the central question of Supa Modo, which AwardsCircuit”, and Little White Lies labelled “a love letter to the power of escapism.”
Director Likarion Wainaina says he drew heavily on his own childhood in making this film: “I drew from that time when I was nine and I had my first cinema experience in an old shack at the edge of Kibera slums in Kenya.
“I saw Jackie Chan star in Legend of the Drunken Master and right there and then I knew I wanted to make films. From that moment onwards, films became my solace.
“Every Saturday I would go back to that shack and for three shillings per movie, I would let my mind be transported to other worlds. Worlds that gave me hope, excitement and fear.”
Supa Modo is described as the kind of film that will make you cry and cheer in equal measure; a film that is as aware of how cruel life can be as it is of how powerful families and communities can be when they stand together.
A month before production, Likarion went on a research trip to Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi. He visited Ward 1E, the special unit where children with terminal illnesses reside.
“I went expecting the worst but I was greeted by the most heartwarming, kindest children you will ever meet,” says Likarion. “There was so much life in that small ward.”
He was particularly moved by a boy who told him that all he wished for was “a helicopter, more Chapatis and for his mum to be happy…” As Likarion puts it, “This brave young soul already knew he wouldn’t live long. He just wanted his mother to be happy; her sadness was the only thing he couldn’t live with.”
Likarion realised then why he wanted to tell this particular story.
“Someone somewhere has lost someone. Death has snatched that someone from you but you know that they would want you to be happy. Do not fear death; fear not enjoying life.
“The heroes at Ward 1E are enjoying theirs. So everything since that day, from the shaping of the characters, to the cinematography, to my directing, to the post production; everything I have done for this film is in honour of those little amazing angels at Ward 1E.”
Watch the trailer here: https://youtu.be/sK6JwllJTRY
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