Uganda has submitted Tembele as its first-ever film to the Oscars in the 2023 Academy Awards for the best international feature category.
Tembele was selected by the Uganda Academy Selection Committee to represent the country in the forthcoming 95th Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars.
The film follows Tembele’s life, a humble man with immense dedication to his work on a garbage truck as he battles mental setbacks after losing his son.
He always interacts with Segi, his colleague and best friend, with whom they share dreams and life’s aspirations. The 12-hour job is risky to their health and requires a lot of energy.
Supporting Tembele emotionally is Mawe, his pregnant housewife. The two reminisce about their past and look forward to the joy of ushering in their baby.
The scenes tactically zoom into details of Tembele’s life and introduces Mawe, whose one eye is blind.
Shot in Kampala city’s suburbs, this is a story of how problems in life affect mental health.
The film opens with Tembele’s day, and work routine, which is loading and offloading garbage on trucks. It takes us to dumping grounds teeming with busy slum dwellers scrounging through the urban waste. Birds like pelicans, vultures, and ducks also survive on the garbage.
Life takes a turn when Mawe goes into labor, Tembele borrows his neighbor’s scooter and takes her to the hospital where she is admitted. Tembele is in limbo as he struggles to pay the bills which keep rising each and every day.
Tragedy strikes when the motorcycle is stolen, even before he pays for it; when Tembele returns home, he receives a call and happily rushes to the hospital. But, this is all a fantasy that the film grips us into.
Tembele’s joy is cut short when his son dies. The shock leaves him mentally disturbed.
The one-and-a-half-hour Luganda, Rutooro and Swahili film, with English subtitles, is directed by Moriss Herbert Mugisha and Joan Agaba stars Patriq Nkalukanyi as Tembele, Cosmas Sselubogo (Segi) and Ronah Ninsiima (Mawe).
Mugisha first hit the screens in 2008 when he represented Uganda in Big Brother Africa’s third season. His first short film Stain topped the 2021 Uganda Film Festival having received 12 nominations and also scooped an award at the 2021 Africa Movie Academy Awards.
“In Africa, men are told to hide their feelings, and never to show weakness because they will be thought feeble,” Mugisha said in a statement accompanying the submission announcement. “Tembele suggests otherwise: that it is OK for a man to cry and vulnerability is no crime especially if you’re hurting. This is a film of hope, love and brotherhood.”
Tembele premiered in Uganda this summer and swept the Uganda Film Festival Awards, winning best film, best actor and best supporting actor honors.
For the first time this year, Uganda set up an official selection committee and invited local filmmakers to submit movies for Oscar consideration. Tembele will be the first Ugandan film to compete in the best international feature category.
African cinema has barely been represented at the Academy Awards. In the history of the Oscars, only nine African films have ever been nominated for the best international feature prize. With five nominations and one win, Algeria has been the best-represented country on the continent. Paris-based director Rachid Bouchareb alone received three Oscar nominations for Algerian movies: Dust of Life in 1995, Days of Glory in 2006 and Outside the Law in 2010.