During the UK’s biggest African film festivals are showcasing the past decade’s best online, we’ve selected 20 of the continent’s brilliant film-making monuments.
20. Borders (2017)
Born and raised in Burkina Faso, Apolline Traoré was educated in the US before returning to Burkina Faso and working with Idrissa Ouédraogo on the film. On a hot and dusty route from Senegal to Nigeria, a group of four very different ladies find themselves in situations that range from heartbreaking to hysterical.
19. The Nightingale’s Prayer (1959)
Henry Barakat, an Egyptian film-maker, has adapted Taha Hussein’s story, Beauty and the Beast, into a grandiose vengeance melodrama. After witnessing the murder of her sister by their uncle because she had “dishonored” the family, a young woman named Amna decides to take action. When Amna tries to kill the man who led her sister astray, he falls in love with her and she falls in love with him, too.
18. Divine Carcass (1988)
For those who enjoy Terence Rattigan and Dominique Loreau’s documentary-fictional Divine Carcass, there’s no better comparison than Divine Carcass. As a 1955 Peugeot drives around Cotonou, Benin, it tells the narrative of its new owners. Joseph, the cook of an overseas development worker, steals the vehicle and uses it to run an unlawful taxi service. To make a Voodoo god to rule over the people of the adjacent community, it is abandoned by the side of the road after it has broken down one last time. A witty and enigmatic look at colonialism’s ambiguous character.
17. Letter from My Village (1976)
Safi Faye, the filmmaker of the film, grew up in southern Senegal, where the film is set, and she narrates the story by reading a supposed letter she wrote about the happenings in her community. Millet and groundnut (a colonial-era restricted crop) fail amid a devastating drought, and a young guy, Ngor, can’t afford to marry the woman of his dreams. He needs to travel to Dakar, the capital of Senegal, in order to make money, and he returns with a tale of woe.
16. The Wedding Party (2016)
The Wedding Party, starring Kemi Adetiba, is the most successful example of Nollywood’s cultural phenomenon and commercial filmmaking force in Africa. To the delight of her parents, a young gallery owner is going to wed her IT entrepreneur lover to the delight of her parents, who want to make the wedding sensationally expensive. Although they have an old-fashioned friendship. Because of the bride’s insistence that they not have sex until their wedding night, there has been an increase in mistakes and anxiety.
15. Skoonheid (Beauty) (2011)
Deon Lotz’s ferociously powerful, yet delicate and deep, performance is at the heart of Oliver Hermanus’s harsh and frightening South African-set movie. His character in the film is Francois, a middle-aged white Afrikaner family man with a secret yearning for white men. He is gay, has orgies that are presented with a peculiar, intense joylessness, and is enamored with his nephew at the same time. I have reservations about the film’s ending, which has a rape scene in which the victim is a man, but it’s rare to see such a scene in an arthouse film. This picture has a lot of power and intensity, and Hermanus’ ability to control the film’s emotional climate is amazing. Lotz adds a melancholy layer to the plot.
14. Of Good Report (2013)
Noir drama-thriller-fantasy Jahmil Qubeka’s South African classic about forbidden love, past trauma and a breakdown in mental health. Parker, a quiet, bookish college student, is given the job of English teacher at a local high school. Nolitha (does the name hint to Lolita?), an attractive teen girl in his class, is definitely the target of his sexual fantasies. Parker’s memories of military service in the Democratic Republic of Congo, supposedly as part of a UN mission, triggered a macabre sexual obsession and brutality.
13. Chronicle of the Years of Fire (1975)
Mohammed Lakhdar-three-hour Hamina’s Algerian epic features spectacular widescreen splendor. With the Palme d’Or, it beat out Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser for Cannes’ top prize in 1975. When it comes to a film that tells a similar plot as Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 picture, The Battle of Algiers, this is a good one to start with. After serving in the French military, a peasant farmer named Ahmad returns to Algeria with a single goal: to free his country from the French rule. So begins his almost biblically epic story of resistance, a story of rejection to harshness and a lack of faith in oneself.
12. Yaaba (1989)
Classic African cinema’s walking-paced pacing and use of non-professional actors may owe something to Satyajit Ray’s depiction of rural populations in Idrissa Ouédraogo’s film. Sana, an elderly woman who has been exiled from her village in Burkina Faso, is spotted by two children as they play outside. As she shows them kindness they have never seen before, they begin to form a close relationship with her. They call her “Yaaba” because she is so beloved (Grandma). That’s put to the test when one of the kids gets sick and Sana is held responsible.
11. Yeelen (1987)
Souleymane Cissé, a Malian film-maker, earned the Jury Award at Cannes in 1987 for this fantastic adventure narrative. The plot revolves around a father-son conflict that takes place at some point in the distant past (or perhaps the eternal present or mysterious future). To prepare for the coming clash with his father, a young man named Niankoro sets out on a journey to gain the spiritual power and enlightenment he would need. Picture critics have likened the film to 2001: A Space Odyssey because of its opening sequence, which shows the sun rising over the ocean at dawn. Throughout the film, “yeelen,” or “brightness,” is referred to as “something which produces the world again each morning.”
10. The Season of Men (2000)
Memorable and poignant family drama by the writer-director Moufid Tlatli, which allows its viewers to experience a powerful and emotionally moving story. Djerba is the Tunisian island where a woman and her two daughters live, and the women’s commune that nurtures and enslaves them. For the sake of her family’s safety, Aicha must reside on the island with all of her husband’s sisters, who are all away in Tunis. For one month a year, he and the other menfolk come to live with them. Tlatli weaves the past and the present together seamlessly, making narrative mastery look like a piece of cake.
9. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
Gillo Pontecorvo’s iconic film depicts the Algerian rebellion of the 1950s in a stunningly accurate manner. A nail-bitingly suspenseful sequence in a packed cafe in Algiers is the beginning of Colonel Mathieu’s ruthless campaign to put down the revolt, which he begins with a ruthless campaign of isolating terrorist cells, torturing them for information on the names of those further up the pyramid chain, until the key figures at the top are obliterated. It is assumed that the perpetrators are Muslim, thus they will be able to hide more readily in the Arab areas,” Mathieu tells his soldiers. Mathieu’s experience in Vietnam and the French resistance seemed to foreshadow his own eventual demise in this country despite his best efforts.
8. Waiting for Happiness (2002)
Beguiling in its softness, Abderrahmane Sissako’s Mauritanian film is a delight to watch. It has a fabular quality because of its beach surroundings, which includes sand, constant sound of the ocean, and whitewashed buildings with no signs of commercial activity. In the coastal village of Nouadhibou, Mauritania, the film slowly shifts between characters. At one point in the film we see a grainy flashback of a local woman visiting France for a man’s reason, only to find herself in a state of loneliness and isolation. Waiting for Happiness is a film that requires patience, but rewards you with a charming and delicate depiction of an island society.
7. District 9 (2009)
As a brilliant and prescient sci-fi satire about xenophobia, from South African film-maker Neill Blomkamp, “ET go home!” could be the tagline. A spaceship carrying banished aliens from their home planet flies above a metropolis in a bleak future. District 9 is a lawless territory outside of the metropolis where these strangely shaped creatures (nicknamed “prawns”) have been allowed to dwell by caring, progressive leaders from Earth. There is proof that the prawns are still in contact with their monstrous mothership, which is providing them with the means of rebellion. Finally, the authorities decide to take them to an internment camp.
6. Atlantique (2019)
As a French-Senegalese actor and director, Mati Diop tapped into African cinema’s twin traditions of realism and mythology with Atlantique, an intriguing docu-supernatural mystery, an eerie narrative of a winter’s tale that is strangely familiar despite its apparent normality. Souleiman, a migrant worker in Dakar, is Ada’s true love, but she is engaged to the rude, affluent Omar. She want to flee the country and join him. Even though Ada is on the verge of a better life than any Souleiman could ever hope for, she is still a poor lady. Strange and unexpected things begin to happen after that point. A text from Souleiman requesting Ada to meet him in the middle of the night is disturbing and mysterious; is it real, or a terrible trap? When the spirit of exploited labor rises up, it turns either a ghost story or a revenge story, which is what Atlantique is all about. It’s a tantalizing mystery.
5. I Am Not a Witch (2017)
Filmmaker born in Zambia Nyoni has made a picture that’s technically British, but it’s based on African cinema motifs such as the innocence of a child and the agony of an outsider being ostracized. I Am Not a Witch is attractive because of her unique subversion and comedy. Nyoni was born in Wales, and it’s possible that her name was inspired by Connie Booth’s baffling declaration of innocence in Monty Python and the Holy Grail’s witch-trial sequence. A Zambian orphan, Shula is accused of being a witch by her townpeople and exiled; she is taken under the wing of Mr Banda, an unpleasant public man with an odd side business. In his “witch camp,” all of Shula’s fellow campers are old women. It’s not Hogwarts. Shula, on the other hand, is soon thrust into service, appearing on talk programs, helping the police with her magical skills, and providing rain to the farming community. You can’t help but fall in love with this game of chance.
4. Cairo Station (1958)
Youssef Chahine’s tragicomic masterwork, “All Human Life Is Here,” truly embodies the phrase. Qinawi, the newspaper vendor, is played by Chahine himself, and his unrequited love for Hanuma, the lemonade vendor, is shown in a blazingly intense drama at Cairo Station. It’s a joy to watch Chahine’s large ensemble perform with riotous vigor; he has fantastic stylized set pieces, such as a train-carrying rock n’ roll song performed by a group called Mike and His Skyrockets. Darker shades of Hitchcock and Powell begin to appear as Qinawi grows increasingly obsessed with her. When it comes to time and place, Cairo Station almost achieves the eerie feel of a tragedy. After Qinawi is convinced of the need for aggressive action, Chahine concocts a scene of an incredible array of scary blades, big and little, hanging up in what appears to be an extravagant and absurd outdoor knife shop. My favorite moment. Direct to camera, an assistant says, “Can I help you?” obviously addressing the furious assassin in the middle of his plan to kill him. I love the deadpan, black comedy feel of it.
3. La Noire de … (1966)
Often referred to as the “father of African cinema,” Senegalese writer and director Ousmane Sembène made his breakthrough with this film. One of his own short stories, it is a tale of sexual politics and cultural conventions in imperial America. ” Mbissine Thérèse Diop, a Senegalese actor, portrays Diouana, a young woman from Dakar who comes to work as a nanny in the south of France, which is far from the relaxing paradise she had thought to find. While working for her employer and their visitors as a servant at their home, she is sexually harassed by them. Her prior life in Senegal is shown as a contrast to her current situation. Empire and servitude are important themes in Sembène’s film, yet they are paired with an intimate storytelling approach. Mamouna Doucouré’s Cuties cast Diop as a community elder who recently came out of retirement.
2. Touki Bouki (1973)
They did their part to resurrect the memory of one of Africa’s mysterious jewels, which was once regarded to be one of the earliest experimental African films. Beyonce sat behind Jay-Z on a motorcycle with a set of zebu horns on the handlebars. A allusion to Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki, which features two rogues and rebels of Senegal on a bike, reminiscent of Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless and Jean Seberg in Bonnie and Clyde…. Mory and Anta are a young couple who long to leave Senegal for Europe, where they hope to find a better life. In order to meet their immediate financial needs, they must resort to criminal activity, such as theft, fraud, prostitution or burglary. A loose, energetic liveliness pervades the film, but when the stakes are highest, it seems that only Anta has a burning desire for freedom from Senegal; Mory, strangely restricted by links to the area, seems to be unable to express his masculinity, even as his motorcycle metaphorically falls down. Touki Bouki’s revolutionary energy made Mambéty a one-man New Wave in Africa.
1. Abouna (2002)
In addition to Daratt and A Season in France, Chad-based filmmaker Mahamet-Saleh Haroun has been critically appreciated for his work. For me, his best work is the classic African film Abouna, a picture rich in subtle humanity about love and loss and filled with a special sensitivity for children and childhood in general.. Just 81 minutes long, it manages to pack a slew of life-changing events into the lives of two young boys. Performances are always serene and deeply felt, as is the way they are constructed and photographed in this work. It never bothers or hectors its audience. For 15-year-olds and 8-year-olds, their father has vanished from the family home, leaving them to deal with the consequences. Only once in the film do we see this man, traveling through the desert.) It illustrates the boys’ desperate search for their father (in the movie, the younger child is convinced he can see him on screen and shouts: “Dad it’s me!”). When they inquire about their father’s whereabouts, their mother simply responds by saying that he is “irresponsible,” a term that completely stumps them. This all comes to a head when the boys are sent to religious school, where they meet a girl and begin a late-flowering romance that confuses and enriches their own connection. This film is really heartfelt and poignant.