Togetherness Supreme
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In 2007, Kenya held the second multi-party election in the country’s history. The president, Mwai Kibaki, ran for re-election, opposed by Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement, or ODM. The tense race and controversial election results eventually led to demonstrations and violence that resulted in hundreds of deaths and months of unrest. But while many of us read about the crisis online—or saw it on the news—those brief news reports couldn’t get the story across quite like Togetherness Supreme, a Kenyan drama based on actual events surrounding the election.

Kama (Wilson Maina) is a responsible and thoughtful young artist who lives with his father in the village of Kibera. As the election approaches, Kama’s friend, Oti (Geoffrey Jefferson Ong’ong’o), encourages him to get involved in the ODM, but Kama knows that no one from the party would welcome him if they knew that he was Kikuyu—a member of the wealthy and powerful tribe that controls the nation’s government. Still, he attends a rally and finds himself caught up in the values and beliefs of Raila and his movement.

  
 
As Kama and Oti work together to promote the ODM and its candidate, though, they find that they have another interest in common: Alice (Martha Kisaka), a pretty pastor’s daughter who volunteers as a nurse. Despite their friendship and their common beliefs, Kama and Oti quickly become romantic rivals.

Filmed on location in Kibera and using a cast of amateur actors, Togetherness Supreme has the gritty, genuine feel of a documentary. And, in many ways, it’s as informative as a documentary, too. Though some of the details might be a bit confusing for viewers who don’t already have an understanding of Kenyan culture and politics, you’ll still get a good feel for the political and tribal unrest that brought tension and, eventually, violence to the 2007 election.

Beyond the politics, though, Togetherness Supreme also offers a stirring look at life in the slums of Kibera, a crowded, impoverished village outside Nairobi. Throughout the film, viewers get to walk the streets and visit the tiny apartments to experience the people’s culture, witness their living conditions, and see the desperation and despair that surround them—all of which is underscored by a spectacular soundtrack of local music.

The actors, meanwhile, seem completely at home in their environment. Though their inexperience is often evident, it only makes the film feel that much more authentic. The actors give earnest and sometimes even joyful performances, making their characters (even incurable ladykiller Oti) irresistibly charming.

Had Togetherness Supreme focused solely on the election and on Kenya’s political and cultural climate in 2007, it would have been a fascinating docudrama. Unfortunately, though, director (and co-writer) Nathan Collett allows the film to become watered down by the awkward, melodramatic love triangle between Kama, Oti, and Alice, which serves as an unnecessary (and unwelcome) distraction from the more interesting (and moving) political drama.

Despite the disappointing distraction of the love story, though, Togetherness Supreme is a simple and sincere drama—one that will transport you to a new and unfamiliar place while teaching you a little history lesson in the process. And that makes it a film that’s worth checking out.


Ed. Note: Togetherness Supreme is currently playing at film festivals like the recent Cleveland International Film Festival. For more information, visit TogethernessSupreme.com.

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