SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The heart-wrenching story of a mother taking her terminally ill child home from hospital to live out her final days, could certainly be portrayed onscreen as misery and immense grief. However, in the Kenyan movie, Supa Modo, the emotional tale is depicted to bring comfort, showing viewers that one can always find happiness, even in the face of death.
Ten-year-old Jo (Stycie Wawewru) is a courageous, sick little girl, who is obsessed with superheroes, because they offer her an escape into a fantasy world where heroes live forever.
As a result, her big sister, Mwix (Nyawara Ndambia) wishes to make her little sister’s dream of possessing real super powers come true. In order to do so, Mwix conspires with the entire village, setting up a series of incidents that she hopes will lead Jo to believe that her powers will save them all. Jo, however, ends up discovering their scheming tactics but plays along anyway, to keep her community happy.
It is only after an unfortunate accident that the village discovers that the girl knew about their noble gesture all along. In order to salvage their good deed, the community sets out to make a movie that includes the other village children, with Jo playing her lifelong dream role of a superhero.
Director of the film, Likarion Wainaina comments: “I wanted a world that had colour but was very muted which reflects what our film is about. So what we did is have the film in muted colours in the beginning but as we progress and our characters change we bring in more and more colour and saturation. We also split the film into three distinct feels/looks. We had ‘The Real World’, in which we omitted the quintessential African sunset look; ‘The Dream World’, which was darker and had more contrast; and lastly, we had ‘The Film World’ which is essentially the film the community is making and for that we went with the more orange African sunset look in order to reflect how Africa is portrayed in the cinematic world.”
Supa Modo is Wainaina’s debut film and is produced by Ginger Ink Films Africa in partnership with One Fine Day Films (OFDF).
OFDF has released other award-winning African films including Kati Kati and Nairobi Half Life. It was at the One Fine Day Films BrainRoom – a two-week masterclass that allows writers to pitch and develop their ideas – where Wainaina’s story idea for Supa Modo was pitched and selected for production.
Wainaina admits that Supa Modo’s original story idea was much darker compared to the final script; it was with the help of his production crew that he managed to turn things around. “Yes, the original story was very dark. One can always get sucked into the darkness when dealing with such heavy materials and themes but the producers really encouraged us to explore it from a new angle, a new way of looking at the situation, and that leads us to explore hope and humour to deal with such a dark theme,” said Wainaina.
The film is set in Limuru, in a village called Kabuku outside Nairobi. The Supa Modo production team had castings in June then shot the film in July in just 22 days.
“We shot the film on the Arri Alexa and some second unit shots were done on the Black Magic Cinema Camera 4.6k; we also edited using Avid Media Composer, and the colour grading process was done courtesy of Arri Media,” shared Wainaina.
There are a few VFX shots on the film, which were handled by a VFX supervisor who helped achieve the effects in camera. Green screen effects were also pulled off some scenes during post-production.
Supa Modo had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February this year to a full house where the film earned the Children’s Jury Special Mention.
The film then had its local premiere at the Nairobi Film Festival where it was a crowd favourite. The film’s success at the Kenyan box-office has been compared to Black Panther’s reign and is rated a must-see family film where kids get to go to the cinema donning their favourite superhero outfits. Supa Modo is currently playing for a second month at cinemas in Nairobi and Mombasa, with a VOD release due in the upcoming months.
The film had its US premiere at the 14th Annual New African Film Festival and also showcased at the 37th Minneapolis St. Paul Film Festival where it was selected for the Youth Jury Award for cinematography, acting, and pacing that emphasised the natural bond between family and community in Kenya. The film is also showcasing at festivals in Belgium, Spain, Norway and Australia.
Rushlake Media has acquired the film’s world sales rights, with several African countries making offers to reproduce the film in different languages, and for different African communities.
- Camera: Arri Alexa and Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera 4.6K
“We shot the film on the Arri Alexa and some second unit shots were done on the Black Magic Cinema Camera 4.6k.”
- Director: Likarion Wainaina
- Producers: Sarika Hemi Lakhani, Siobhain ‘Ginger’ Wilson, Tom Tykwer, Guy Wilson, Marie Steinmann-Tykwer
- Cinematography: Enos Olik
- Editor: Charity Kuria
- Sound: Sean Peevers