Fed up with the compulsory stay at home and wondering how to pass the time? You don’t have to spend the whole day daydreaming, sleeping or watching TikTok videos. Why not give the impressive collection of African films on Netflix a chance? Netflix has shown an admirable dedication to showcasing the diverse filmic languages from all over the world and now is the time to join millions immersing themselves in original African content.
In no particular order, here are the 10 African films you have to see:
Lionheart (2018) – Nigeria
Africa’s first Netflix Original. This warm and simple film on family, love and posterity is the kind of bubblegum you need to distract you from all the grim news out there. The film tells the story of Adaeze, who is on a quest to save her family’s transport company from bankruptcy. Lionheart stars Genevieve Nnaji, Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie, Kanayo O. Kanayo and Onyeka Onwenu. This film is Nollywood’s first submission to the Oscars and it sparked conversations online when it was rejected by the academy for being “too English”.
Azali (2018) – Ghana
Ghana’s first submission to the Oscars. This grim story follows the life of teenage Amina, who in the bid to escape an arranged marriage to an elderly man, finds herself distraught in the slums of Accra and is plunged into the harrowing life of sex work and poverty.
Tsotsi (2005) – South Africa
Speaking of African submissions to the Oscars, this 2005 South African crime drama is the first and only African film to win the ‘Best Foreign Language film’ at the Oscars. Titular Tsotsi battles with childhood trauma as we follow his life of crime after he discovers a baby in a car he’d stolen. The emotional connection with the baby changes his life in a way he never expected. Beautiful storytelling and a phenomenal performance from Presley Chweneyegae are bits to look forward to. The film is an adaptation of Athol Fugard’s novel of the same title.
Atlantics (2019) – French/Senegal
Senegalese ‘Atlantics’ might not have been nominated at the Oscars, but it basks in a lot of critical acclaim. One of which is its selection for the 2019 Cannes Festival, and its eventual winning of the coveted Cannes Grand Prix. Mati Diop’s 2019 film might be described as magical realism, but anyone who is educated on African cultures, would know that the existence of ghosts form much of our reality. And Diop weaves this well in this unusual story of love and immigration.
Catching Feelings (2017) – South Africa
Directed by Kadigo Legisa, this film follows the story of a young academic and his journalist wife as their marriage gets disrupted when an acclaimed and hedonistic older writer moves into their home with them. This film, though very lighthearted and funny, offers interesting commentary on racism and patriarchy in South Africa.
Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu (2016) – South Africa
What makes this film so special and heartwarming is that it’s one of the few films on the apartheid regime in South Africa that is told and played by South Africans. The film celebrates/tells the life of a South African hero, activist and comrade of the African National Congress (ANC).
Young Kalushi is given momentum to join the ANC after he’s brutally beaten by the police during the 1976 Soweto uprising. After military training in Angola, he leads a small group on a mission for the ANC. His friend and fellow comrade, Mondy, loses control mid-mission, which leads to the killing of two white men and thus, has them incarcerated. Kalushi is found guilty under the common purpose doctrine and receives a death sentence.
Prior to this ruling, Kalushi had already assented to whatever the Judge’s ruling would be. His brother had made arrangements for him to escape, but he rejects the proposal when it’s time to act on it. The humility in this decision underscores the fact that he’s only a part of the liberation struggle, that the fight would continue with or without him, and perhaps his story would serve as inspiration for other comrades in the struggle for liberation. And it did and continues to. Mandla Dube’s telling of Kalushi’s life is heartwarming and sincere. A very unapologetic account on the evils of the apartheid regime.
Joy (2018) – Austria
Austrian filmmaker, Sudebah Mortezai’s 2019 award winning film, Joy, is a poignant look at the sex-trafficking industry that traverses between Benin (Nigeria) and European countries. This film is however no misery porn, it approaches the life of its eponymous character and the other sex workers with a mission to provide truths on their life and through that, humanizes the lives of sex workers. Although told by an Austrian, the film lacks no authenticity in its telling of the life of Nigerians.
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind (2019) – UK/Malawi
Adapted from the autobiographical book of the same title, on William Kwambena’s heroic efforts in providing relief for his community from drought by building a wind mill, The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind makes apparent the underlying conditions affecting them: poverty, bad governance, and climate change. The film was directed by English actor and filmmaker of Nigerian descent, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Beasts Of No Nation (2015) – UK/Ghana
A horrific account about child soldiers and the ills of war in a fictitious west African country, Beast of No Nation is based on Uzodimma Iweala’s novel of the same name. The film starts off humorous before almost unexpectedly becoming a torturous tale. The film features British-Ghanaian actor Idris Elba, who is impressive as a charismatic and sinister war lord. But what I find more striking is young actor Abraham Attah, as nine year old Agu, a child soldier. The narration evokes a lot of tears and laughter, which forms part of the thrills and highlights of the film.
93 Days (2016) – Nigeria
What better time to revisit this inspirational account of Ada Adevoh’s heroic efforts towards curbing the Ebola virus outbreak in Nigeria than now, when the whole world is battling the Covid-19 pandemic. Nigerian director, Steve Gukas strikingly brings this powerful film on the difficulties of that time and the hardwork of individual medical practitioners, who put their lives at stake towards ensuring that Nigeria is Ebola free.
And there you have it. If you haven’t already watched any of these movies, now is the best time to do so.
Remember, stay safe and keep the hope alive.