|Lupita Nyong’o, poses backstage with the Breakthrough Performance Award and presenter Alfre Woodard in Palm Springs, California. [PHOTOS: REUTERS AND COURTESY]|
By KENNETH KWAMA
LONDON: Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o, who caught the world’s attention following a splendid performance in the film 12 Years a Slave, has been nominated for the prestigious British Film Academy’s Rising Star Award (Bafta).
Lupita, who played a cotton picker in the movie, will now battle it out for the ultimate prize with “Blue is the Warmest Color” actress Lea Seydoux and a host of other big names for the award.
The winner will be decided by public vote and announced during the British Academy Film Awards — Britain’s equivalent to the Oscars on February 16.
Although the self-confessed theatre enthusiast and daughter of former Cabinet minister Anyang’ Nyong’o had always loved acting, she officially announced her entry into the big screen in November 2009 after starring in a television series Shuga that was first aired on MTV Base.
The drama that followed the lives, love and ambitions of a group of youngsters was part of a multimedia campaign to spread the message about responsible sexual behaviour and was an instant hit with the Kenyan youth, mainly because of the celebrity cast and its unique theme.
In a way, it also ushered in individuals who went on to become household names in Kenya’s entertainment industry like Nicholas Mutuma and Avril Nyambura. But while the rest of the November 2009 star cast can only look back and revel about their acting debuts and Shuga’s fame, there’s one thing that Lupita now has that they don’t, a Bafta nomination.
According to Daily Mail, the nominees were selected by a group of jurors including actress Gemma Arterton, Deputy Chair of Bafta’s Film Committee Pippa Harris and film critic Mark Kermode.
Other finalists announced include American actor Dane DeHaan, who plays a troubled poetic muse in Beat Generation saga Kill Your Darlings.
Two British actors rounded out the list — George MacKay, who stars in Proclaimers musical Sunshine on Leith, and Will Poulter of comedy We’re the Millers.
The actress has already graced the covers of reputed international newspapers like The Times and could land bigger roles in other movies judging from the positive reviews and swirling interest in her.
This could finally see her immortalised on the treasured Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her contributions to the entertainment industry — an honour that no other Kenyan has come close to achieving.
The film, 12 Years a Slave was made by British Director Steve McQueen and was inspired by the memoirs of Solomon Northup — a black musician sold into slavery in the US in 1841.
The film has also been tipped for the Oscars success and if the dream comes true, will catapult Lupita to unassailable heights and make McQueen the first black filmmaker to win best director.
Last Saturday, McQueen accused Hollywood of ignoring slavery as subject matter for the movies.
The Times captured his lamentations in a story titled: Hollywood is ignoring horror of slavery, says the British director.
“The film, which stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, has attracted controversy for its unsparing depiction of the brutality meted out to slaves,” reported The Times.
According to the newspaper, the actress it referred to as ‘the daughter of a political dissident,’ said her experience of race in the United States was very different from what it was at home (Kenya).
Lupita, who has also been nominated for the best supporting actress at the Golden Globes for her performance as a slave, also told the newspaper in an interview she rarely thought of herself as black until she moved to America.
While most of the reviews have focused on depiction of slavery in the film, online entertainment publication The National chose to depict Lupita’s nomination as a battle between Kenya, France, the UK and US.