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Kenyan film with Oscar ambitions

Arts and Culture
TeraStorm, is the first animated film to be presented for an Oscars nomination by an African country. (Courtesy)

Terastorm is about a group of heroes who come together to stop an ancient wizard hell-bent on burning the modern world down to ashes, to restart it anew. The centre of the conflict is an ancient artefact that carries enormous power and is in the hands of an organisation called KifaruTek. The fate of the entire planet is at stake and the brave heroes put their lives on the line to try and stop the wizard. An ambush takes place at KifaruTek, as a mysterious attacker breaks in and steals the artefact, using its power to resurrect Eli-Ra, an ancient wizard demigod.

Fueled by vengeful rage, Eli-Ra plans to enslave humanity through a “baptism of fire”. And the brave heroes must be willing to put their very lives on the line to defeat Eli-Ra before his barrage of devastation and put an end to humanity. However, it may be too late to save the planet from the onslaught. This is the storyline for Terastorm, a superhero animated movie that has been chosen to represent Kenya in the International Best Feature Film category for the 95th Academy Awards.

Written and directed by Andrew Kaggia, TeraStorm is the first animated film to be presented for an Oscars nomination by an African country. In addition, it was produced entirely in Kenya, which marks a huge leap forward for the Kenyan animation industry on the world stage. Featuring an ensemble of Black African superheroes for the first time in a feature film, it was brought to life by the voice talents of Arabron Nyyneque, Ali Mwangola, Melvin Alusa, Sara Muhoho, Maryianne Nungo, Peter Mudamba, and Mungai Kiroga.

We caught up with Andrew Kaggia, a self-taught 3D Animator, filmmaker and game developer. “I have been doing animation for about 20 years and as a big superhero fan, I always wanted to do a story that combined our African Mythology with elements of Sci-Fi. That was when the idea for Terastorm was born. I wanted to explore how science and “magic” were two sides of the same coin, and what it would mean if the ancient demigods of Africa showed up in modern times,” says Andrew whose studio, Afrikana Digital, produces high-end 3d animation and gaming content for clients around the world.

Andrew’s idea of Terastorm by itself was a tedious task even getting the cast together. “I always had the idea to do an animated film but it took a while to get to the point where the technology, experience and skill set were in perfect alignment. When the time was right I then worked on a script, and put together some character designs on paper with my colleague Morietz Muthui. After this, I called my line producer Firul Maithya who started to organise auditions for the voice actors. With the voice recordings done, I spent the next 15 months working on the animation. It was a very intense journey, he says.

Working 16-hour shifts a day he put in the work and when the film started showing in the cinema he could not hide his joy. “The biggest highlight was the film premiere in the cinemas. Seeing people lining up to buy tickets and enjoying the movie was priceless to see. It is a major milestone for the film and animation industries,” he says.

After the filmmaking process came to fruition, Andrew got a call from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Oscars. He later submitted it to the Kenya Film Commission and it went through a voting process by the Oscar committee. “After a couple of weeks, I got a call from one of the committee members that the film was selected to represent Kenya. I was thrilled,” he says.

After official selection, a film moves to the international level where the nomination happens. And this is the next stage that Terastorm is yet to get. It is currently running at Anga Cinema Diamond Plaza, as well as other major cinemas across Kenya. It is a great story, awesome animation and of course some Sheng. As they say, the sky is the limit, for Andrew. “I want to tell amazing stories on the big screen. Hollywood must know what we can do on this side of the world. I plan to produce more amazing stories that will reach a global audience and blow people away,” he says.

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