Opening 18 Apr 2019
Writing credits: Wanjeri Gakuru, Gathoni Kamau, Ian Masters, Silas Miami, Mugambi Nthiga
Principal actors: Stycie Waweru, Marrianne Nungo, Nyawara Ndambia, Johnson Gitau Chege, Humphrey Maina
In Supa Modo the nine-year-old Jo (Stycie Waweru) has a shaved head and dreams of being a super heroine. She wants to play and run around playing with all her friends she has met at a children’s hospital in Kenya. As they wait for their fate, Jo tells the others she will give them all her posters when the time comes. Jo’s spirit is full of hope, strength, happiness and perhaps even a little bit of denial since she is battling a terminal illness, but what else can she do? Despite the advice from the doctors to keep her in the hospital, Kathryn (Maryanne Nungo), Jo’s mother, decides to take her home. She wants to protect her and be there to comfort her. Her sister, Mwix (Nyawara Ndambia), has quite a different reaction; she begins to involve the community in half-truths by creating situations which make Jo believe that she has special powers.
The film Supa Modo reveals the process of a family in crisis when facing an inevitable situation with a terminal illness. It is a remarkable children’s film since it’s rare that the main protagonist dies in the middle of the film, but the film has to find its end. It illustrates perfectly Kübler-Ross’ The 5 Stages of Grief and Loss by showing how each person in Jo’s community feels and how they evaluate their own feelings and cope with this process. Jo symbolizes a superheroine who can motivate her entire community to create something beautiful so that her spirit lives on. It is a film with strength and heart. It reaches out to a topic that is not addressed to children, which needs to happen, since they too, would have this process of mourning, if someone around them dies. The five stages of Grief and Loss is a universal one. It doesn’t depend on culture or religion and there are ways for us to help each other to go through this process and not settle into a long depression.
It is not surprising that this film has won 16 awards which include the best Michel Filmpreis at the Filmfest Hamburg and has been nominated for Kenya’s entry for the 2019 Oscars. This year Kenyan film director Likarion Wainwaina has set his marks high by working with mentors who helped him find this universal message. This film was produced as part of the One Fine Day Films workshop project. The founders of this project, Tom Tykwer and Marie Steinmann, wanted to give African filmmakers the opportunity to learn from mentors and create their stories for an international audience and it not only opened in the Generation section at the Berlinale Film festival this year but received special mention in the Kplus category.
Wainwaina started off as part of Kibanda Productions, which tells Kenyan stories the Kenyan way. His first breakthrough onto the European scene was when he and his script writer Brian Munene were accepted to the Cannes Film festival in order to participate in The 48 Hour Film Project. They had to create a short film which included a script, cast, and shooting, all edited in the set time period. Their short film Bait was well received at the Cannes film festival in 2017 and won six awards at various festivals. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)