(A spoiler free review)
A few months ago I watched what I later declared to be my favourite movie of 2018. It was the sleeper Kenyan independent film hit “Supa Modo” that has been making waves at every festival that it has opened to. Its tagline is ‘Heroes live forever’ and it is only in experiencing the film for oneself that one truly understands why it is so important to our main character, 9-year-old Jo, played tenderly and authentically by first time actress Stycie Waweru, to have an aspect of herself live forever.
Essentially “Supa Modo” did what good art should do: it made me feel beyond myself and my situation. I found myself feeling a kinship to characters who I have nothing in common with. The mother who wants the best for her child, but is not really sure about how to go about ensuring it, the older sister who just protectively wants her younger sister to never stop believing in her dreams, or the youngest child of a family struggling with a very adult problem, and still choosing to find the silver lining.
But beyond being successful good art, “Supa Modo” also communicates a concept that I realized retrospectively is quite uncommon in movies depicting rural ‘African’ life. It celebrates community. Generally in a film, when an African is depicted as coming from a small town or a rural village, the overwhelming desire of the protagonist is to escape their surroundings for the big city or to travel to the West. In this case, our main character has neither desire, instead, she wants to remain in her community and even gains strength from it. There is an intangible antagonist in Supa Modo, which is the main reason for most of the sadness and complicated realities of the characters of the film. But the heroes are anything but intangible, they are the main character in her resilience and her family, friends and community members who lend her their strength when she needs them to.
So, in that vein, right now “Supa Modo” needs our help. “Supa Modo” has made it to the list of international foreign language films eligible for an Oscar. In order for it to be seen by the right people and get an Oscar nomination, the producers and writer/director Likarion Wainaina are crowdfunding for an Oscar campaign. “Supa Modo” has reminded us of the importance and power of community, and it is on us as members of the African community, whether diaspora or not, to support positive stories that build us up. In this case a story about a Kenyan superhero named Jo, who never stopped believing and whose strength came not from outside forces, but from her community itself.
Keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming interview with the people behind “Supa Modo”.