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‘The Letter’ picked to represent Kenya in 2021 Oscars

November 10th, 2020 2 min read

‘The Letter,’ by producer-director duo Christopher King and Maia Lekow has been selected by the Kenya Film Commission to represent the country in the foreign language category of the 2021 Oscars.

Following the closing of the Kenyan call for Submissions on October 27, 2020, the Oscars Selection Committee Kenya received two entries; One Documentary Film and One Feature film, namely ‘The Letter’ and ‘Uradi’ respectively.

On November 2, the Committee convened to view and select an entry as required by the regulations of The Academy and on Tuesday November 10 selected ‘The Letter’ to fly the Kenyan flag high.

The nominees for the awards will be announced on February 9, 2021 ahead of the Oscars Academy Awards ceremony scheduled for April 25, 2021.

The film follows a young man, Karisa, who travels to his grandmother’s rural home when he learns she has been accused of witchcraft.

He soon discovers that the threatening letter she received came from a member of his own family, and that the accusations have caused a rift among relatives driven by a combination of superstition and economic motives.

As the film’s focus widens, he learns that hundreds of other elders in the region are being branded as witches as a means to steal their land.

As Karisa delicately navigates between his wrangling aunties and uncles, the love for his grandmother and her fearless spirit must overcome the imminent danger of the accusations against her.

The inevitable universal theme of how land is divided when an elder dies, is entangled by the chaotic mixture of traditions of the past with the newly imposed influence of western values and religion.

The understated power of women, alongside the resilience of family and community shines above all else, despite the growing threat of greed and inter-generational alienation.

It explores how the rural Kenyan community is still suffering from the “unaddressed traumas of a violent colonial past,” dating back to the days of British rule, and made worse by “a lacking post-independence government, rising evangelism and cut-throat capitalism,” according to the filmmakers.

‘The Letter’ has been screened in various Festivals around the globe, receiving a Special Jury Mention at the Docs Barcelona (Panorama Competition) in May 2020 and a nomination at the One World Media Awards in April 2020.