Supa Modo hit an emotional sweet spot with me, as I’m sure it will with TIFF Kids audiences. It’s easy to engage with a film that has this much optimism and zest.
The story centres around Jo, a terminally ill child who is too interested in fight choreography and action flicks to take notice of her devastated mother. Since Jo’s health is dwindling, Mom decides it would be better for her daughter to spend more time at home, prompting her to check Jo out of the hospital. This keeps Jo safe and close to family, but this protective parenting sequesters her from living a full life. Her older sister Mwix (Nyawara Ndambia) notices this and, in turn, gives Jo an unforgettable experience that subtly utilizes the young martial arts fan’s interest in film.
The characters are a wee inconsistent, but the heart driving the characters gives each actor the force to forge forward. Stycie Waweru gives a brilliant performance as Jo. Granted, filmmaker Likarion Wainaina directs Waweru’s natural youthful exuberance well, but the way this breakout star commits to the role is nothing short of impressive. Ndambia’s compassion is endearing, while Johnson Gita Chege (as Mike, the local film fanatic) finds ways to charm the audience with his brief screen time.
Supa Modo is grounded as a family drama, but it branches out in lovable ways that encourage creativity. The narrative rides a thin line between reality and fantasy – giving audiences double-take surprises – and a last minute sidetrack about the power of film (presented mostly during the film’s back-half) is tender fun. Likarion Wainaina falls back on typical sentimentality, but it’s forgivable considering how effective Supa Modo’s ending is.
Quite simply, Supa Modo is a wonderful film.
Supa Modo screens at Toronto’s TIFF Kids International Film Festival on Saturday, March 17 at 12:00 pm, Sunday, March 18 at 10:15 am, and Thursday, March 22 at 12:30 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Click here for more details!
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie