Often at times, when teaching the new generation kids about African cinema, they often give me an empty expression of ''really? there are no proper films made in Africa by African filmmakers." And I don't blame them because of what they have been exposed to in mainstream media, which, well, for a lack of a better word, aren't the best told stories in terms of 'quality' and 'storylines that are not of black magic and witchcraft.' So, I took it upon myself to find them these films and hopefully in the next few classes am going to have with them, we can watch them together. It's time to change their mindsets on African film.
(c)From a whisper
First up, our very own Kenyan film From a Whisper - Dir. Wanuri Kahiu, Kenya, 2009. Winner of five African Movie Academy Awards including best picture, Wanuri Kahiu’s first feature, “From a Whisper,” is a fictive take on the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in 1998 in Nairobi and its lingering impact a decade later. Though occasionally stilted in writing and performances, this drama does effectively put the causes and aftermath of large terrorist actions in personal terms. Its production polish and primarily English language dialogue eased transition to offshore ancillary sales. The movie is very real and I liked Ken Ambani's realistic acting and I loved the music too. Wanuri Kahiu is a good director who will go on to make greater films. The cinematography on this film was exceptional
From the name, who wouldn't want to watch this one. Viva Riva- Dir. Djo Munga, DR Congo, 2010. This is simply a sophisticated gangster movie. It has raw energy and puts a human face to all that is happening in the Congo. Sometimes just too real, it is gritty, fun and a must-watch thriller.
Sinking Sands - Dir. Leila Djansi, Ghana, 2011
This film deals with domestic violence, but based on the personal journey of a man disfigured in an accident, which makes him turn against his wife. Ama K. Abebrese, who plays the wife, made this film for me and she won Best Actress at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) for it, and I felt that director Leila Djansi made the film engage with the audience in an emotional way, showing not just the rawness of domestic violence, but taking us through a range of pain and forgiveness. The film also depicts how women can immerse themselves in guilt and force themselves to feel like the guilty party. I think I have given away too much already, go on, watch this amazing film
'From Naija with love' like my students would say comes White Waters - Dir. Izu Ojukwu, Nigeria, 2007
"White Waters" was a very good movie. It tells the story of a disadvantaged boy who is discovered as a gifted runner. I loved the feel, the music and the fact that it was about achieving something from nothing.I loved the cinematography. Izu Ojukwu, the director and cinematographer and actor O.C. Ukeje were phenomenal in this movie.
(c)Mwansa the great
Moolaade - Dir. Ousmane Sembene, Senegal, 2004
Sembene is the ultimate African filmmaker of all time and if you don't know him or haven't watched any of his work, well, its time you did . "Moolaade" dealt with a subject that most men would rather not deal with, female genital mutilation. But director Ousmane Semebene was not afraid to tackle the subject in a manner that the film was artistic, yet detailed, and did not derail the issues that most people in Africa are afraid to confront. Coming from Sembene it was important, visual and professionally made and it pulls at the viewers' heart strings.
Otelo Burning - Dir. Sara Blecher, South Africa, 2011
This woman continues to do more and more in South Africa and most of her movies have made it to awards around the world. This is the story line of young black South Africans in the 1980s excelling in surfing as a sport that was reserved for the whites. The sound and picture quality is excellent, as was the acting. "Otelo Burning" is one of the best African films I have ever seen and I feel it should have had a lot more accolades than it did.
Benda Bilili - Dir. Renaud Barret, Florent de La Tullaye, DR Congo/France, 2010
This is a great musical documentary telling the story of Staff Benda Bilili, a group of disabled Congolese musicians. The band members start out making a living on the streets of Kinshasa, before becoming world-famous musicians. I personally haven't watched this one, but it's definitely on my 'to watch list.'
Irapada- Dir. Kunle Afolayan, Nigeria, 2007
I love anything to deal with African myths and mysticism. Did you know that it was the first Nollywood film to make it to mainstream film festivals including the London Film Festival and Pan African Film festival in Los Angeles after winning an AMAA (Best Indigenous Film) in 2007? Now you know.
Ghett'a Life - Dir. Chris Browne, Jamaica, 2011
Not strictly an African movie, but "Ghett'a Life" is one of those films that you need to watch. The music in it is brilliant, and the cinematography too. It deals with the political violence in Jamaica in a realistic way, showing that people born in the ghetto can escape. "Gett'a Life" can be hard to deal with but when you watch the documentary "Marley" you begin to understand how politics, music and sports all merge in developing countries. For me, this movie is in the same league as "Otelo Burning," with its message that you can get out of the corner if you really try. Story line: excellent, acting: brilliant.
That's it from my list of Africa movies of the 21st Century you should watch, let us know what you think about them in the comments section below. Can't wait to share with you my students' experience and reactions when they watch the films and what they think.