Uganda picks 'Tembele' for the Oscars

Saturday October 01 2022
A scene from the film 'Tembele'.

A scene on the trauma of loss from the film 'Tembele'. PHOTO | ANDREW I. KAZIBWE | NMG


The Ugandan film Tembele which lays bare how life situations affect mental health has been selected by the Uganda Academy Selection Committee to represent the country in the forthcoming 95th Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars.

The one hour and a half Luganda, Rutooro and Swahili film, with English subtitles, is directed by Moriss Herbert Mugisha and Joan Agaba stars Patriq Nkalukanyi as Tembele, Cosmas Sselubogo (Segi) and Ronah Ninsiima (Mawe).

Tembele selection is only provisional pending fulfilment of all Academy Awards eligibility criteria.

The film follows Tembele’s life, a humble man with immense dedication to his work on a garbage truck as he battles mental setback after losing a son.

He always interacts with Segi, his colleague and best friend, with whom they share dreams and life’s aspirations. The job 12-hour is risky to their health and requires a lot of energy.

Supporting Tembele emotional is Mawe, his pregnant housewife. The two reminisce about their past and look forward to the joy of ushering in their baby.


The scenes tactically zoom into details of Tembele's life and introduces Mawe, whose one eye is blind.

Shot in Kampala city’s suburbs, this is a story of how problems in life affect mental health.

The film opens with Tembele’s day, and work routine, which is loading and offloading garbage on trucks. It takes us to dumping grounds teeming with busy slum dwellers scrounging through the urban waste. Birds like pelicans, vultures, and ducks also survive on the garbage.

Life takes turn when Mawe goes into labour. Tembele borrows his neighbour’s scooter and takes her to the hospital where she is admitted. Tembele struggles to paying the bills which keep rising.

Tragedy strikes when the motorcycle is stolen, even before he had paid for it.

When Tembele returns home, he receives a call and happily rushes to the hospital. But, this is all a fantasy that the film grips us into.

Tembele's joy is cut short when his son dies. The shock leaves him mentally disturbed.

Mugisha first hit the screens in 2008 when he represented Uganda in the Big Brother Africa’s third season. His first short film Stain topped the 2021 Uganda Film Festival having received 12 nominations and also scooped an award at the 2021 Africa Movie Academy Awards.

Tanzania has submitted the acclaimed film Vuta N'Kuvute, (Tug of War) based on Adam Shafi's award-winning Swahili novel of the same title, a coming-of-age political drama about love and resistance set in the final days of the Zanzibar revolution.