These four Kenyan films dominated 2018

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So many movies came out this year that were considered both critical and box office hits. From superhero blockbuster like Supa Modo to romance and comedy Disconnect the Kenyan film scene did not lack controversy and it was a year that hit virtually every note and then some. Here are the four films that had everyone talking:

Supa Modo – The feel-good superhero film continues to fly the Kenyan flag high. The film that tells the story of a mother driven to surround her dying daughter with joy in her last days has been selected by the Kenya Film Commission to represent the country in the foreign language category of the Oscars.

Likarion Wainaina’s film which is set in the village of Maweni, is a movie about a little girl who suffers from a terminal disease, a type that isn’t going to end well and saw it become the only Kenyan film that earned a place to the prestigious awards in 2019.

Supa Modo has enjoyed a lively run since its premiere at Berlinale in February, going on to screen at more than 30 festivals around the globe. The film, which stars veteran actors Maryanne Nungo and Nyawara Ndambia with newcomer Stycie Waweru, has won 21 international awards across the globe.

Disconnect– This romantic comedy film featuring some of the biggest names in film locally, including Brenda Wairimu, Catherine Kamau, Bridget Shighadi, Nick Mutuma, Patricia Kihoro and Pascal Tokodi had a red carpet premiere in Nairobi.

The film created a buzz on the local scene. It is the dream of most girls to walk down the aisle someday, and a bachelorette’s party is definitely on their to-do list. But what happens when you develop seriously cold feet about getting into holy matrimony with the man ‘of your dreams’?

According to David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga, the producer of the film and who was recently named in the Business Daily’s Top 40 Men 2018 list, the film industry in Kenya has been evolving over the years and has mostly focused on documentary films about the poor living conditions of the people in city slums.

“‘Disconnect’ is a film that Kenyans can connect to. It’s like watching your story, or the story of someone you know, on screen.”

For authenticity, Tosh says he prefers working with story lines that stick close to everyday reality, as much as possible.

Rafiki – Just mention Wanuri Kahiu and everyone will scream ‘Rafiki’. There was a tag of war between Kenya Film Classification Board chief executive Ezekiel Mutua and Ms Kahiu over the screening of the film in Kenya. Mutua said the agency banned the film because it contains homosexual scenes which he said is illegal in Kenya.

Rafiki, which means “friend” in Kiswahili, tells the story of two young women who fall in love and premiered at this year’s 71st Cannes Film Festival. It was the first Kenyan feature film to receive such an invitation from the biggest and most prestigious film festival in the world.

The High Court temporarily lifted the ban on the film in order for it to participate in the 2019 Oscars Award. Kenyans thronged cinema halls to watch it for the seven days that it ran.

Subira – It was first screened as a short film in 2008 and was a tremendous success in Europe, after being screened in Brussels as part of an African film festival. It won 15 international awards and this year it was made into a feature film.

It scooped up five awards in this year’s Kalasha Film Awards including “Best Feature Film,” Beast Lead Actress in a Film” which saw Brenda Wairimu feted for her work as a lead. The film was also acknowledged for “Best Editor”, “Best Lighting Technician” and “Best Director.”

Shot on location in Lamu and Nairobi, Subira tells the story of a young girl who is determined to live her dream of being a swimmer against the odds of restrictive local customs and a looming arranged marriage to an upper class family.

Raised in an orthodox Muslim community in the remote island of Lamu, her tyrannical mother wants Subira to follow tradition; learn household chores and aim to be a good wife just like the rest and forget to live out her unique dream of swimming in the ocean.

Does she have the courage to take her dream on, against all odds? Sippy Chadha, the director of the film, says Subira’s story comes from a place of deep personal experience.

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