Supa Modo: A Different Kind of Superhero Film

06 Jan 2020 BY Steven Ryder in Film Features

6 mins
Supa Modo Image
Supa Modo Image

For a film set in a small, rural village in Kenya, one of the most striking aspects of Supa Modoa life affirming story of a terminally ill child who wishes to be a superhero - is just how universal it is. What's more, in a first for Into Film, we have gained exclusive rights to Supa Modo, meaning that we're the only place you can gain access to this excellent film.

By setting this story in such a unique part of the world as rural Africa, young audiences are offered a glimpse into a culture and locale that may seem alien at first, but soon crystallises into something entirely relatable, offering a similar experience to other popular titles on our catalogue such as My Neighbour Totoro and The Eagle Huntress. Taking on themes such as loss, grief and following your dreams, Supa Modo retains a light and accessible tone, resulting in a film which can be discussed and explored by people of all ages.

9-year-old Jo is a witty, charismatic and imaginative young girl who, like a lot of children, has become obsessed with superheroes and action stars. From Iron Man to Jackie Chan, they cover her bedroom walls in poster-form and she can often be found watching films in awe at the hospital, where local cinema owner Mike comes to screen movies for kids who are dealing with severe illnesses. When Jo's mother, Kathryn, is told that her daughter's condition is not improving at the hospital, she makes the decision to take Jo back to the village of Maweni so she can live out the rest of her short life at home, with her family.

However, Jo refuses to spend her days inside, so her loving and rebellious teenage sister, Mwix, hatches a plan so she can live out her dreams of being a real-life superhero - a plan which will need the help of the entire village of Maweni. Despite the urging of her mother to keep Jo indoors and safe, Mwix instead enlists various townspeople to act out elaborately staged action scenes in which Jo, as her superhero persona 'Supa Modo', saves the day. Together, as a family and as a community, they set out to make a Supa Modo film to help Jo leave behind a lasting legacy.

First time director Likarion Wainaina has crafted a film which contains the wonderful balance of a simple story filled with complex emotions. Jo is filled with strength, hope and an enviable imagination. Her personality and unwavering optimism are what drive the film forward, but it is her relationship with her family that give the film its emotional foundation. Her mother, Kathryn, feels the weight of the world on her shoulders as she must come to terms with her child's terminal illness whilst her sister, Mwix, is unwilling to give up, working hard to forge excitement and memories they can all cherish together.

In many ways, Supa Modo is also about the power of film. Jo sees her heroes doing good deeds on screen and then dreams of replicating their actions. The time she spends at the local cinema upon her return to the village is an escape from the reality of her situation and Mwix soon recognises this, encouraging her rather than limiting her. The way in which the townspeople and Jo herself explore the creativity and invention of filmmaking provides the film with a joyful, celebratory spirit. Supa Modo is also very funny; the witty script buoyed by the elastic facial expressions and physical comedy of the ensemble actors that make up Jo's family and village.

Supa Modo is now available to screen exclusively though Into Film in the UK. It's layered and thoughtful approach to numerous important themes make it a perfect fit for schools and Into Film Clubs. The film's unwavering belief in the transformative power of film, whether it be watching a movie with friends or experimenting with creating your own movie magic, aligns entirely with our own. This is especially evident in our drive to highlight films made by young people around challenging subjects, resulting in projects such as Moving Minds, a youth-led suite of films dealing with issues around mental wellbeing.

When asked about the film's appeal to young audiences, Likarion responded positively, saying "We've had emails and calls from people telling us that because of watching the film they are able to talk about death with their kids… for them, it was more about the life she lived than her actually dying. And that was the whole point of the film.

The tagline on the international poster for Supa Modo reads "Heroes Live Forever", which sums up the film's ethos nicely. By experiencing the highs and lows of Jo's life, young audiences will hopefully be able to speak up about any thoughts or concerns they have about loss and grieving and feel comfortable doing so. It also acts as an affirming reminder that superheroes come in all shapes and sizes and from all over; from the mega-cities of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the rural villages of Africa. We believe that Supa Modo is a superhero film that may truly be able to make a difference.

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Steven Ryder, Curation Officer

Steven has an MA in Film Studies, Programming and Curation from the National Film and Television School. He has previously worked for various exhibitors around England and currently freelances as a film critic/podcaster.

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