Despite being a massive continent undergoing profound social transformations, political upheaval, and volatile economic transitions, Africa has one of the world’s most diverse cultural heritages. African film, in particular, has risen to popularity on a global scale in recent decades. From South Africa to Kenya, Angola to Senegal, these 10 films are a vibrant celebration of the continent and a vital glimpse into modern-day Africa.
Black Girl (1966) | Senegal
Black Girl is regarded as one of the first films made by an African filmmaker in Sub-Saharan Africa to receive international acclaim. The plot follows Diouana, a young woman from Dakar, as she moves to France to work as a nanny for a wealthy French couple; however, she soon discovers that she is nothing more than a slave to the family. Ousmane Sembène’s film is a tragic story of cultural alienation, much of which is still prevalent in European societies today, as well as a forceful reflection on long-standing themes of colonialism and racism, told in gorgeous black and white imagery.
Hotel Rwanda (2004) | Rwanda
Hotel Rwanda is a moving historical drama about the genocide in Rwanda that occurred more than a decade ago. The world turned a blind eye while one of the biggest tragedies in human history occurred on the African continent, with over 1 million people massacred in just three months. Terry George’s film depicts an ordinary family guy who has the unusual fortitude to provide shelter to thousands of displaced refugees at the hotel he manages. The film, which focuses on the madness of genocide and the horrific inhumanity of war, not only gives viewers a new perspective on the force of instinctive heroism but also gives them an insight into Rwanda’s grim history.
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) | South Africa
The smash-hit The Gods Must Be Crazy is one of the most popular comedies to come out of Africa. It is original and timeless appealing. It is a film about cultural dialogue and curiosity, and it is essentially a story about the vast differences between two civilizations. Following a bushman who discovers a coke bottle dropped by a passing plane, his town regards the object as a gift from the gods. In order to figure out what it means, he sets out to travel to the edge of the planet and destroy it. He meets a bumbling biologist, a schoolteacher, a reporter, and a group of revolutionaries aiming to overturn the government along the way.
From A Whisper (2009) | Kenya
From A Whisper is a Kenyan drama based on the events surrounding the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi. The film, directed by African Movie Academy Award winner Wanuri Kahiu, has earned a slew of prizes and examines the aftermath of the deadly attack by focusing on the victims and their relatives. It revolves around Abu, a young intelligence officer who meets a rebellious artist who is looking for her mother. As their friendship grows, Abu’s recollections of his best friend, who was killed in a US embassy bombing a decade ago, come up in conversation. Finally, the film explores the agony of loss, the futility of friendship, and a person’s struggles to come to terms with his or her beliefs.
Hyenas (1992) | Senegal
As a Senegalese village becomes more impoverished, the village elders are forced to sell the town’s assets to pay off their obligations. When Linguère, a former inhabitant, returns to the town where she was born, the villagers think she would be a benefactor to the community and hire a local grocer, who used to pursue her in her youth, to persuade her to part with her fortune. The woman, on the other hand, has different ideas and has already returned with the intention of sharing her fortune — but there is a catch. Hyenas provide insight into African poverty as well as human foolishness.
District 9 (2009) | South Africa
Neill Blomkamp’s indie science fiction film District 9 is set in a futuristic Africa populated by extraterrestrials and follows an alien race forced to dwell in dreadful conditions on Earth. Imprisoned in District 9, a militaristic internment camp, the beings find assistance in a government operative who has been exposed to their biotechnology talents. District 9, an award-winning fantasy thriller, is gritty and realistic, a refreshing departure from the mundane Hollywood plotlines that plague the sci-fi genre. The film, which examines the interaction between persons and their society, creates a riveting reality that sets it apart from anything moviegoers have seen in years.
Sambizanga (1972) | Angola
The film Sambizanga is set in 1961, during the start of the Angolan War of Independence, and depicts the difficulties of local militants involved in the country’s freedom. The film follows the plight of a rebel and his captivity by Portuguese colonialists and is based on a book by Angolan writer José Luandino Vieira. Threatened with torture and death if he does not expose his fellow dissidents, the film also highlights the role of women in the war, particularly the prisoner’s wife Maria, who travels from prison to prison urgently looking for her husband. Sambizanga has been recognized at the Berlin International Film Festival, as well as on other international venues, as a film of enormous political value and a profile on the African liberation movement.
Osuofia in London (2003) | Nigeria
After Hollywood and Indian Bollywood, Nigeria’s film industry is the next largest in the world, releasing over 200 movies every month. One of the first to gain an international audience was the comedy Osuofia in London, now one of the highest selling Nollywood films of all time. Following in the steps of Hollywood, the feature employs sharp filming techniques, advanced equipment and a co-production of African and US talent. The Nigerian comedy stars African Movie Academy Award Winner Nkem Owoh, in his portrayal of a native villager who travels to London to claim his share of inheritance. Hilariously funny, the movie provides a highly enjoyable glimpse into contemporary Nigerian culture.
Tsotsi (2005) | South Africa
Tsotsi is a South African film set in a city slum in Johannesburg. It recounts the events surrounding a teenage street thug who steals a car. When he discovers a child in the back seat, he finds forgiveness in caring for the small infant, and an unexpected change occurs. The film offers a powerful portrayal of contemporary African suffering and the agony of social isolation among lost communities. Away from Hollywood’s sophisticated metropolitan dramas, this raw story remains true and is portrayed with a great conviction – it’s no surprise that Tsotsi won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and is still considered one of the best films to come out of South Africa.
Netflix and UNESCO Are Looking For The Next Generation of African Filmmakers
Netflix and UNESCO have teamed up to establish an innovative short film competition in Sub-Saharan Africa called “African Folktales, Reimagined.” The competition’s winners will receive industry training and mentoring, as well as a US$75,000 production budget, to create short films that will premiere on Netflix in 2022 as a “Anthology of African Folktales.”
One of the competition’s main goals is to find fresh perspectives and provide young filmmakers from Sub-Saharan Africa global exposure. We want to identify the most daring, witty, and surprising retellings of some of Africa’s most beloved folktales and share them with entertainment enthusiasts in over 190 countries across the world.
It is important that the film sector acts to ensure the voices of Africa are heard, by supporting the emergence of diverse cultural expressions, putting forth new ideas and emotions, and creating opportunities for creators to contribute to global dialogue for peace, culture and development.
Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General
The tournament, which will be run by Dalberg, will run from October 14th until November 14th, 2021. Each of the six winners will get a US$75,000 production grant (via a local production firm) to create, shoot, and post-produce their films with the help of Netflix and industry mentors, ensuring that everyone engaged in the production is fairly compensated. In addition, each of the six winners will get a cash prize of $25,000 apiece.
Both UNESCO and Netflix agree on the importance of promoting and sharing varied local stories with the rest of the globe. They recognize that many aspiring filmmakers struggle to get the resources and exposure they need to fully realize their potential and advance their creative careers. This competition aims to address these difficulties and provide a platform for African storytellers to showcase their work to a worldwide audience.
This alliance will also assist to create long-term jobs and stimulate economic growth, contributing to the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a set of goals aimed at ending global poverty in all of its forms by the end of this decade. This film festival will also contribute to the reduction of disparities by allowing access to global markets and ensuring decent working conditions. All of these are important targets for the 2030 Agenda.
Afrotape to Focus on it’s Community
Today marks 3 years since Afrotape was formed. What began as a platform for artists’ services has evolved into a youth brand that will be the leading voice on African culture. It’s been a fascinating and challenging journey, full of invaluable experiences and life lessons that have shaped us into the people we are today. (more…)
APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN: ANIMATION TRAINING FOR EAST AFRICAN WOMEN
The Ladima Foundation announced earlier this year a cooperation with Culture and Development East Africa (CDEA) and the Kwetu International Animation Film Festival (KIAFF) to provide training, development, and professional opportunities to women working in the animation industry in East Africa. (more…)
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