Wednesday, 12 June 2019

LUSALA, THE CROWN OF THE NBO FILM FESTIVAL

                                    Key cast members and producers of Lusala at its World Premiere at Prestige Plaza

By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 12 June 2019)

NBO Film Festival at Prestige Plaza has just two more days to go before the full screening of rich array of Pan-African films is done on Sunday night.
This year’s Festival featured films not only from Kenya (including Subira, Poacher and Demla among others), but from elsewhere in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
But without doubt, the one film that singularly thrilled two full-houses of viewers on opening night was ‘Lusala’. Mugambi Nthige’s directorial debut in film was a revelation, especially after just watching the brilliant stage play, ‘Written on the body’ by Andia Kisia which he also directed.
But Mugambi’s directorial skills barely scratch the surface of what this man is creatively capable of, bearing in mind that he not only co-wrote Lusala; he also co-scripted award-winning films like Supa Modo, Kati Kati and Nairobi Half-Life.
But having seen them all, one is tempted to suggest Lusala’s the one that might earn him, Brian Ogola (as Lusala) and the rest of his cast even wider accolades. (How about an Oscar for best Foreign film 2019!)
Lusala’s a sensitive story about a boy who’s violently brutalized by his alcoholic dad to the point of running away literally for his life. He’s transported from poverty into his uncle’s affluent home where he grows up apparently a full-fledged member of that family. However, at the wife’s (Mkamzee Mwatela) insistence, he’s unceremoniously told to move out and find his own way in the world.
Thrown back into poverty, he starts flashing back to his painful youth and to the sweet sister (Stacie Waweru) he’d apparently blocked out of his mind. Her hallucination had been there before which could be why the wife, fearing his instability, had insisted he leave their home before he did damage to her family.
                                                      Brian Ogola as Lusala with baby sister (Stacie Waweru)

It turns out Lusala had been traumatized, but not just by a cruel father. His sister had run away with him but had gotten ‘lost’ along the way. His feelings of guilt haunt him incessantly and they get worse as he has more time alone.
Brian Ogola portrays Lusala’s mental breakdown with poignant sensitivity, to the point where by the last scene we feel his excruciating despair. Cinematically, his mental confusion is brilliantly shot, as the camera captures his growing anguish as her hallucination takes over his mind.
Lusala tries suicide but fails. Pulled from the family swimming pool, his fate is left hanging as is his captivated audience. The horror that Ogola sustains at the very end of the film leaves us wondering: is the horror the discovery he is still alive or the fact that he almost died? We’ll never know. That is, not unless Lusala, his sister and the whole cast are given a sequel to find out: will Lusala ever be lifted out of limbo or be freed from the horrible guilt he feels for losing the loving sister he feels he left behind to die?






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