Vuta N’kuvute:The road to 2023 academy awards

What you need to know:

  • It’s high time for Bongo films to regain its status in African cinema considering how much the film industry has developed over the years.

Amil Shivji’s romantic drama 'Vuta N’kuvute', Swahili for Tug of war becomes Tanzania’s official entry for The Oscars 2023 Academy Awards under the ‘Best International Feature Film’.

The announcement was made by the Chairman of the Tanzania Oscar Selection Committee, Dr Mona Mwakalinga on Tuesday, September 20.

If the film makes it to the nomination list will become the second Swahili film 21 years after 'Maangamizi: The ancient one' in 2002.

Maangamizi was released in 2001 by Professor Martin Mhando. The film was about representing the history of two continents that peels away layers upon layers of pain to bring healing of the soul.

Sharing his excitements Film director, Amil Shivji, says he was very delighted to hear his film has been selected to represent the country at global awards.

“I’m more happy considering that we now setting up the infrastructure for Tanzanian films in Swahili to be able to compete at such an international level and on the highest platform of cinema in the world,” says Director Shivji.

Adds to that, it’s high time for Bongo films to regain its status in Africa cinema grounds considering how much the film industry has developed over the years.

“I am very excited to be able to participate, be part of this historical moment,” he shares.

Since its first premiere, Vuta N’kuvute has made a buzz, from its first screening at The Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) late last year to its two-week long showing at the public cinema hall at the heart of Dar city.

In the span of one year, the film has made into several screens of international film festivals and win a number of awards including three awards from Zanzibar international Film Festivals (ZIFF), Fespaco Award from Burkina Faso and others from Asia and America.

Its official submission for Oscars currently signifies the wave of growth for Swahili films.

Based on a screenplay by Shivji and Jenna Cato Bass, Vuta N’kuvute is adapted from Shafi Adam Shafi’s Swahili novel in which a rebellious young revolutionary, Denge and a runaway bride, Yasmin whose romance thrives on the back of a political revolt in the days of colonial-era Zanzibar.

The film is produced by Steven Markovitz for South Africa’s Big World Cinema and Amil Shivji for Tanzania’s Kijiweni Productions.

Road to Oscar Awards

According to Dr Mwakalinga, Vuta N’Kuvute film made it to the lists partly because of its powerful storytelling and stirring Taarab soundtrack that have gripped audiences in the region,

“We are happy to have selected this film as Tanzania’s official submission to the 95th Academy awards. The film speaks of Tanzanian history from our own point of view...It also portrays how the struggle for one’s freedom was fought wholeheartedly,”

The exercise to select a film from Tanzania that would be submitted to Oscar started in 2019 but was cut short by Covid-19

“Despite the global pandemic disruption, most of our Swahili films back then were not good enough for consideration,” elaborates Dr Mwakalinga.

This year, from August 1 to 30, the committee called for film submission for all films that meet all the requirements.

Other film submitted were ‘I regret’, ‘Mungu ndio suluhisho’ Swahili for God is the solution and Giza Swahili for Darkness all directed by Amor Abbass.

For the categories of ‘Best international film’, 95th Academy has five nomination spot for feature films worldwide.

Dr Mwakalinga tells The Beat that the film will go through three committees to make it to the final round of Oscar’s official five international feature film nomination list.

Still, both the committee and film casts are optomostic this will be another milestone for ‘Vuta N’Kuvute’ .

The 95th Oscars will be held on March 12, 2023 at Los Angeles’ Dolly Theatre. The submission deadline for general entry categories for the 2023 Academy Awards is November 15.