The drama follows Tembele (Patriq Nkakalukanyi), a garbage man in Kampala suffering from mental illness who begins to lose his grip on reality after the death of his infant son. Ronah Soledad Ninsiima and Cosmas Serubogo co-star.
“In Africa, men are told to hide their feelings, and never to show weakness because they will be thought feeble,” Mughisha said in a statement accompanying the submission announcement. “Tembele suggests otherwise: that it is OK for a man to cry and vulnerability is no crime especially if you’re hurting. This is a film of hope, love and brotherhood.”
Tembele premiered in Uganda this summer and swept the Uganda Film Festival Awards, winning best film, best actor and best supporting actor honors. It has not yet been released outside of the country.
For the first time this year, Uganda set up an official selection committee and invited local filmmakers to submit movies for Oscar consideration. Tembele will be the first Ugandan film to compete in the best international feature category.
African cinema has barely been represented at the Academy Awards. In the history of the Oscars, only nine African films have ever been nominated for the best international feature prize. With five nominations and one win, Algeria has been the best-represented country on the continent. Paris-based director Rachid Bouchareb alone received three Oscar nominations for Algerian movies: for Dust of Life in 1995, Days of Glory in 2006 and Outside the Law in 2010.
Of the three African films to win a best international feature Oscar, only one — South African crime drama Tsotsi (2005) from white South African director Gavin Hood — was directed by an African. Ivory Coast’s 1976 winner Black and White in Color is from French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud. Algeria’s 1969 Oscar champ Z was directed by Greek-French filmmaker Costa-Gavras. The last African movie to receive an Oscar nomination was Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu for Mauritania in 2014.