13 Best African Movies To Get You Hooked
Here are some of the best African movies!
From as far as I can remember, one of my fondest memories were when we sat as a family in my home country of Senegal watching spaghetti westerns and detective shows such as Columbo etc…A great deal of what we viewed were imported western or bollywood movies.However, there were those rare times when Radiodiffusion Télévision Sénégalaise (RTS) would showcase gems by African artists.There began my focus on African films.
Works by Ousmane Sembène, Djibril Diop Mambèty and countless others have been deemed some of the greatest of African films. I feel that to better understand Africa in general, the films that have been made by its people will definitely bring you closer to grasping its myriad of complexities. So to nudge you a bit in checking out some great movies, here are in no particular order my recommendations:
13. Black Girl or La Noire De (Senegal,1966) Ousmane Sembène
If a random person came up to me and asked: What African movies would you recommend starting out with? I would giddily exclaim, Black Girl! Point blank period. Or really any of Sembene’s other films.I was beyond excited when I found out my family and I were moving to the Netherlands at the ripe young age of 12. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, many Africans of all classes and age have this Utopian view of Europe and the western world as a whole. Quite simply, I saw it as the land of milk and honey, where dreams came true.
My story is not quite gruesome as the horror stories you hear of illegal and even legal immigrants facing hardships in new lands. I won’t get too deep into that but the film Black Girl speaks volumes on the effects of french colonialism that remains in Senegal.This flick is the poster child for post-colonial African cinema.It is the first Sub-Saharan African feature film, directed by master filmmaker, author Ousmane Sembène. The protagonist is the embodiment of the country’s relationship with racism and cultural prejudice.If you’ve seen 60’s french cinema, the visuals and flow of storytelling are similar.It’s one of my favorite films by Sembene and truly leaves an indelible mark on the viewer.
From Rotten Tomatoes:”The first major work of Senegalese director Ousmane Sembene, this 1966 film is widely recognized as one of the founding works of African cinema.
Diouanne Therese N’Bissine Diop, a young Senegalese woman, is employed as a governess for a French family in the city of Dakar. She soon becomes disillusioned when the family travels to the Riviera, where her comfortable duties as a nanny in a wealthy household are replaced by the drudgery and indignities of a maid. In a series of escalating confrontations with her mistress (Anne-Marie Jelinek), Diouanne is painfully reminded of her racial identity. She is caught in the tension between the French upper-class and post-colonial West Africa and finds herself alienated from both worlds. Along with narration and dialogue in French, this film also shares the sparse tone and visual style of French cinema of its period. Nevertheless, the influence of Sembene’s European counterparts does not diminish this subtle but striking examination of racial and cultural prejudice.”
12. Faces of Women by Désiré Ecaré (Ivory Coast,1985)
This film was actually banned for its hot and bold erotic themes in its own country of inception, Ivory coast.It’s not only packed with humor,vibrant music, but also speaks on economics and African feminism. It’s an intriguing film and not that this would nudge you to check it out but it won the International Critics’ Prize at Cannes in 1985- just saying.
From 1 World Films:”Eugenie Cisse Roland, Sidiki Bakaba and Albertine N’Guessan star in this vibrant, adventurous film about contemporary Africa. Two women try to balance the demands of tradition and modern life in their changing world. It’s a sensual, joyous combination of raucous comedy and pulsating African music.”
11. Scheherazade Tell Me a Story by Yousry Nasrallah(Egypt,2009)
You want to learn more about Arab society? Check this out. Set in Cairo, three Egyptian women share their stories of oppression at the clutches of men on a daytime talk show setting.Their stories are varied,powerful and ultimately showcases the will to survive despite their horrid circumstances. I’m sure most people are aware of women’s position in certain traditional cultures cocooned by the Islamic religion to basically treat women subhuman.The approach Nasrallah takes to tell these fictional stories yet resonant with factual accounts is quite original and entertaining. Every country has their dirty laundry and this film exposes numerous issues embedded in Egyptian society. Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom so give it a go and prepare to be enchanted.
From African Film website: “Scheherazade is a tale ripped from today’s headlines and yet a clever reference to the myths and lore of the Middle East.When her husband (Hassan Saeed) asks her to tone down the subversive political rhetoric on her program, Egyptian talk show host Hebba (Mona Zaki) draws even more heat by beginning a series that explores the experience of women in contemporary Egypt. As three women speak out about the mistreatment they’ve suffered in a deeply patriarchal society, Hoda must contend with her own disintegrating marriage.
10. The Yacoubian Building (Omaret Yakobean) by Marwan Hamed (Egypt,2006)
It’s an adaptation from a book of the same name by Alaa Al Aswany set amidst the period of the beginning of the Gulf war.For those of you not familiar with modern day historic events in Egypt, you can shower yourselves with a bit of a history lesson on say the aftermath of the 1952 coup that dethroned King Farouk. Moving personal portraits of the residents of the building are told from the most prosperous to those with modest earnings.It contains awesome ingredients of a good film such as drama,oooh romance, taboo subjects! and a mesmerizing tale.Yes, politics are at the forefront of really any film that deals with citizens of a country dealing with an undemocratic,unjust political system.Did I mention that this film is the most expensive Egyptian film ever made? And it is worth the money.
From Amazon.com: “An eye-catching construction, the Yacoubian Building in Cairo was long regarded as the last word in comfort and elegance. Nowadays the veneer has cracked and the shine has dulled to reveal the truth underneath the façade. Through interwoven stories of a number of the residents, the film paints a portrait of corruption, fundamentalism, prostitution, homosexuality, and drugs in central Cairo and creates a vibrant but socially critical picture of contemporary Egypt.”
Impressive & Great list! I really like your sense of humour as a writer and your excitement for each film. I can’t believe I havent seen Tsotsi yet! District 9 is one of my favorite sci-fi movies too, Elysium has a lot of similarities to the social unrest & that same crazy actor playing even crazier! Your list got me excited to see if DIFF has more African Films this year and your future postings. I will try to check these out, probably rare & might have to go to Premiere Video unless Netflix has them for rent. Let me know if you need help with proofreading or anything. I know, “Shut up annoying English major!” 😉 LOL
Wonderful post! We will be linking to this great post on our
website. Keep up the good writing.