Kenya’s Breakthrough Films Of The Decade

For the film and TV industry in Kenya, the 2010s was the decade that ushered in Kenya’s first entry to the Oscars (and the others that followed), gave rise to bold filmmakers who dared to ruffle feathers, and creative and ambitious storytellers who made award-winning TV shows and movies that captured the hearts of audiences and critics.

Nairobi Half Life (2012)

Nairobi Half Life, Tosh Gitonga’s directorial debut and collaborative project with Tom Tykwer’s One Fine Day Films took Kenya to places it never thought it could go to. The film which follows an aspiring young actor and disillusioned dream to make it big in the city won awards, turned heads at international film festivals, and was widely praised by critics. The Hollywood Reporter described it as “fundamentally honest and vividly realistic” while Variety wrote that it was “gritty without being too downbeat.” It’s no wonder it became Kenya’s first-ever entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language category, and made Gitonga one of the most sought-after filmmakers in Kenya.


· 33rd Durban International Film Festival – Best Actor (Joseph Wairimu)

· Africa Movie Academy Awards 2013 – Most Promising Actor (Joseph Wairimu)

· Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards 2014 – Best Cinematographer, Best Lighting Designer, Best Make-Up Artist and Best Art Director

Where to watch: Showmax

Rafiki (2018)

Director: Wanuri Kahiu

Cast: Sheila Munyiva, Samantha Mugatsia

TNo Kenyan filmmaker ruffled feathers in this decade like Wanuri Kahiu (PumziFrom A Whisper) whose second feature film Rafiki was banned in Kenya by the Kenya Film and Classification Board (KFCB) even before its release.

Rafiki follows two young women, Ziki (Munyiva) and Kena (Mugatsia) who fall in love despite the challenges and homophobia surrounding them. A bold concept especially in a country like Kenya, Rafiki has won awards, has been (and continues to be) screened in numerous festivals and screenings worldwide. Upon its release, Rafiki also made history as Kenya’s first ever feature film to be selected in the official screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.


·  Chicago International Film Festival 2018 – Silver Q-Hugo Award

·  Dublin International Film Festival 2019 – Young Programmers Choice Award

·  AFI Fest 2018 – Audience Award Nominee

· Black Reel Awards 2018 – Outstanding World Cinema Motion Picture Nominee

Supa Modo (2018)

Director: Likarion Wainaina

Cast: Stycie Wairimu, Maryanne Nungo, Nyawara Ndabia

Likarion Wainaina dared to dream with Supa Modo and delivered Kenya’s first ever superhero film. Supa Modo, another collaborative project with One Fine Day films tells the story of a terminally ill nine-year old girl whose dream of becoming a superhero who can fly comes true when her rebellious sister rallies the whole village behind her.

Certified 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, Supa Modo was described as a “super sweet tale of the power of cinema” by Awards Circuit. And with over 50 international awards under its belt, Supa Modo made history by becoming Kenya’s most awarded film yet.


·   Cape Town Film Festival – Best New Director

·   Durban International Film Festival 2018 – Artistic Bravery Prize

·   Carthage Film Festival – Best Screenplay

·   Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2019 – Audience Award

Where to watch: Showmax

Special mentions

· Watu Wote: All of Us – A 2018 Oscar nominee for Best Live Action Short, Watu Wote: All of Us is based on the 2015 Mandera bus attack by Al-Shabaab.

· Kati Kati – Mbithi Masya’s Kati Kati about a group of souls stuck in purgatory was Kenya’s submission to the Oscars in 2017 and was praised as a “condensed version of Lost” by The Playlist. Where to watch: Showmax

·Pumzi – Embracing afrofuturism, Wanuri Kahiu’s ambitious sci-fi short Pumzi might as well have been the idea that inspired Black Mirror’s episode Fifteen Million Credits

·  Bait – Likarion Wainaina’s short film Bait, a 48 Hour Film Project was screened at the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner

· Subira – Directed by Sippy Chadha, Subira scooped five awards at the Kalasha Awards 2018 and was Kenya’s submission to the 2020 Oscars. (Update: Senegal’s Atlantics is the only film from an African country to make the Oscar shortlist in the International Feature Film category).