The Top African Films
Even though it might surprise the rest of the world, the African continent is home to some of the best film makers and diverse stories. The following list is just a small collection of the top African films ever made, which speak to more than just moral dilemmas and firefights. They speak to deeper problems through tales that will touch the viewer. In fact, they inspire individuals to really stop and think about situations they don’t encounter on a daily basis. This list covers everything from documentaries driven by hope to young children being exposed to war.
The Top 10 Films from or about Africa
The well-known saying that your past usually comes back to haunt you is more than just appropriate for this film. Set in the small village of Colobane, a man by the name of Dramaan Drameh is a respected member of the community and owns his own shop. However, his peaceful life gets shaken to the core when a rich woman who hails from the same town returns years later. Lingu Ramatou was driven from the village while she was still young, after falling pregnant with the child of a married man, namely Drameh. In his defense Drameh asks two friends to falsely testify against her, saying that she slept with them as well. These testimonies bring her character into question and finally seal her fate. But when she returns she is rich and powerful, and she is looking for revenge. With a very aristocratic approach Ramatou offers the poor villagers money and luxury items. All they have to do is kill the man who betrayed her all those years ago. Initially the villagers refuse, but the idea of owning luxury beyond their imagination is too overwhelming and they gradually start to consider her terms.
This film has been referred to as a cinematic masterpiece by several critics and with good reason. It’s the last movie Ousmane Sembene directed, one of the first great filmmakers to rise from African soil, and it places heavy focus on a topic few people care to really speak about, female circumcision. The story unfolds in the small village of Burkina Faso, where four young girls are simply too scared to participate in the tradition of circumcision. Their only hope to avoid the tradition comes in the form of Collé Ardo Gallo Sy, a woman who has managed to protect her own teenage daughter from the same fate. Her protest obviously spurs great disdain from the traditionalist elders in the village, both men and women, and so they despise her daughter as well. When Sy takes in the four girls and offers them protection it causes tension that cannot be ignored. The director is praised for his balanced take on tradition ways versus modern living. Instead of creating a one-sided situation, both arguments have valid points.
Civil war breaks out in an undisclosed West African country, leaving a small village as the “buffer” between government forces and the rebels. The story follows a young boy called Agu and his narrow escape when the rebels finally attack this village where his father is the local leader. Heeding the request from his father to flee with his older brother just before being killed, Agu manages to disappear into the woods. Unfortunately his older brother isn’t so lucky and dies during the escape. After aimlessly wandering around for days, Agu is picked up by rebel forces known as the NDF and undergoes severe training. His new found family has great success in several confrontations, but when the commander gets stripped of his power Agu’s problems escalate. Even though revenge is at the forefront of Agu’s mind, the killing around him takes a dramatic toll, but Agu simply doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Forget Hollywood twists and turns, because this is a drama with a deeply realistic plot line.
Here is a documentary that proves the human spirit is much stronger than people think. Three children, Dominic, Nancy and Rose, are part of an ethnic group called Acholi. Dominic (14) is a talented xylophone player, Nancy (13) sings in a choir and Rose (14) is skilled in traditional dancing. They live in a remote Uganda refugee camp and they’ve experienced all the horror war has to offer. However, their determination to look past their situation is beautifully captured in this documentary. Through their amazing talents they are invited to participate in a grand competition, which takes place in their nation’s capital. This is by far one of the most inspirational documentaries a person can watch and it provides hope in a situation where there seems to be none.
District 9 is by far one of the best science fiction films the world has ever seen and it takes a very original approach to the possibility of aliens coming to earth. The story kicks off in an alternative version of Johannesburg, South Africa, during 1982. It’s the final destination for an alien ship, filled with sick occupants. Too scared to allow the aliens to become part of normal civilization, the South African government places them in an area just outside of the city, called District 9. As the years go by the conflict between aliens and humans increase, forcing the government to move the aliens to another location. Piet Smit is the guy assigned to handle the move, but after he is exposed to a liquid that changes him into an alien, his mission turns sour and he becomes a fugitive. As expected, he flees to District 9 where he befriends the aliens and helps them to get their ship back in working condition. The special effects in the movie are truly breathtaking, although most viewers will agree that the plot is the winning factor.
This is a historical war film based on the Algerian War of Independence and the events that unfolded within the capital city between 1954 and 1957. It sparked so much political controversy upon release in 1966 that France banned it for 5 years before allowing it to circulate. The story is told from the perspective of a petty criminal called Ali la Pointe, who is later recruited into the Muslim FLN (National Liberation Front) side. Their enemies are the Christian and Jewish citizens, known as Pied-Noir. A series of horrific events are depicted, showing gruesome acts towards civilians from both French and Muslim parties. Desperate to win the war, France sends in a group of paratroopers to destroy the FLN by any means necessary, and even though they won the battle they pretty much lost the war. The director, Gillo Pontecorvo, did an amazing job at maintaining fairness between the groups and he didn’t hesitate when it came to portraying the devastation they both caused.
In this 1959 Egyptian drama a young woman finds herself torn between seeking revenge and falling in love. Amna, the main character, witnesses the death of her sister at the hands of her uncle. The reason for her death is that she has disgraced the family name, and even though Amna’s mother agrees with the punishment, Amna doesn’t accept it. Taking it as her duty to correct this mistake, Amna goes after the engineer who caused the problems. Unbeknown to the engineer, Amna starts to work as a maid in his home. Her plan is to kill him through any means, but she soon realizes that he is impossible to kills. Gradually the engineer approaches Amna with romantic intent and she obviously resists. Unfortunately it only motivates him to try harder. Then the situation goes from bad to worse when Amna decides to return his advances with the hope of getting close enough to ruin his life. What she doesn’t anticipate is the love she starts feeling for him. However, her determination to get revenge sees her setting up a trap for the engineer. Unfortunately things don’t go as planned and she finally tells the engineer everything, causing another disgrace to the family. When her uncle finds out about her attempts to kill the engineer he takes it upon himself to execute her as well. The movie has an incredible impact, which exploits the human condition to fall in love with the wrong people.
The genocide that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 is still fresh in everyone’s mind, but the reality of the situation sinks in with this brilliant 2004 film. It has been called the African version of Schindler’s List, not only for the plot of the movie, but also the power behind it. Paul Rusesabagina is the manager of Hôtel des Mille Collines and husband to Tatiana. Paul is part of the Hutu people while Tatiana has a Tutsi heritage. Their marriage does not sit well with extremists, but Paul has connections with influential people which help his family to survive the initial stages of genocide. During this time they witness brutal killings as the political situation only gets worse. After the president is assassinated and the genocide kicks into full force, Paul provides shelter for more than a thousand refugees while diverting the Hutu soldiers. Eventually the pressure gets too much and the UN’s attempt to save Paul’s family along with refugees fail, leaving Paul with no other option but to blackmail the Rwanda Army’s general for help. This is based on a true story and during this 1994 genocide almost 1 million people were killed. At the end of the movie it states that Paul saved the lives of at least 1200 before reaching safety behind the borders of Tutsi rebels.
Sixto Rodriguez was an American born Mexican folk musician who seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Despite his lack of success in the US, his music reached the shores of South Africa where it sparked more than just a cult following. In fact, it inspired two Cape Town residents to find the man who created such original music. This is what the documentary is all about. Many rumors were making rounds that Rodriguez was dead, while others believed he simply went into hiding. His two Cape Town fans wanted to find out and so the search for Sugar Man began. Upon release it was given several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Documentary feature. For everyone who is interested to know whether they found Rodriguez, just watch the documentary. On a sad note, the writer and director of the documentary, Malik Bendjelloul, committed suicide a year after the release. As for Rodriguez, thanks to the documentary his music has finally gained a degree of success in the United States.
An Egyptian woman by the name of Asmaa lives with her elderly father and teenage daughter in Cairo. Her low income job at the Cairo International Airport makes it difficult to sustain a poor lifestyle, but secretly she is facing bigger problems. Asmaa is HIV positive, and in Egypt people with the disease are considered outcasts. Propaganda depicting the bad influences that lead to contracting the HIV virus is taken out of contrast and sold to the masses as something you’ll die from just by being near it. Scared for her family and herself, Asmaa hides her status for as long as possible. The movie jumps back in time and shows a vibrant young woman selling rugs with her father, then falling in love with an army conscript. However, he ends up killing a man when standing up for Asmaa and gets sent to jail, where he contracts the disease. Despite his refusal to have sex with Asmaa, she convinces him to make the child he’s always wanted. When the movie cuts back to present time, Asmaa is forced to quit her job and join an HIV support group. This is where she meets a television group who wants her to share her identity and story. Asmaa is based on the true story of a woman who was refused necessary surgery due to her HIV status and speaks to the prejudice the Egyptian government has towards the disease.