10 African Documentaries to Watch Now
Today, African filmmakers are rated among the best in the world for their educative, informative and entertaining documentaries. Here is our list of ten of the most uniquely powerful.
Indigo Tongues (2015)
Directed by Mojisola Sonoiki, Indigo Tongues is an award-winning documentary interview series that conveys powerfully the inspiring voices of dynamic individuals from Africa and her diaspora, onto one global platform. The documentary helps to bring to the spotlight, the African trailblazers that have contributed significantly to the development of their areas of expertise. This is exemplified in the first segment of the documentary interviews titled Women in Media, which features in seven episodes, women in the media industries from Kenya, Sierra Leone, Guadeloupe, Jamaica and Nigeria.
Faaji Agba (2015)
Directed by Remi Vaughan-Richards, this documentary follows the lives of a group of septuagenarian musicians. It is a warm portrait of the history, culture, and music scene in Lagos, Nigeria from 1940 to present day, through the lives of these popular musicians who were brought back into the limelight by the owner of Lagos-based Jazzhole Records, Kunle Tejuoso. Vaughan-Richards, widely recognised as a “scholar” of the era has been documenting the Faaji Agba musicians and Kunle Tejuoso since 2009 in a bid to keep their music active and important.
Directed by Camilla Nielsson, Democrats is a Tribeca Film Festival-winning documentary. It gives audiences insight into Zimbabwean politics through the story of Douglas Mwonzora and Paul Mangwana, two bureaucrats mandated to work together to draft Zimbabwe’s first constitution after Robert Mugabe’s controversial 2008 presidential election win.
The Square (2013)
Directed by Egyptian-American filmmaker Jehane Noujaifilm, The Square is a retelling of events by several young revolutionaries that documents the 2011 Egyptian protests that led to the overthrow of military leader, Hosni Mubarak and the ousting of Mohammed Morsi, the country’s fifth president, in 2013. The documentary is an Emmy award-winner and Netflix original.
Elephant’s Dream (2014)
Directed by British-Belgian filmmaker Kristoff Bilsen, Elephant’s Dream is unlike usual documentaries about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that focus on the physical violence and tumult in the nation. Instead, it is an examination of life in the DRC. It offers a preview into the lives of some of the nation’s service men and women. Various accounts of life in Kinshasa, the country’s capital, are given through the lens of people working at the rail station, the fire headquarters and the state-run post office.
Afripedia, Kenya (2014)
Directed by Teddy Goitom, Afripedia Kenya exposes intimately, Nairobi’s urban culture scene, as well as her prominent personalities and stars through the stories of key talents. Andrew Kaggia, 3-D artist and creator of the political short film, takes viewers to his futuristic vision of Nairobi while proving that there is no inability in disability. Just a Band, an Afro-futuristic pop band, and DIY enthusiasts redefine music while Cyrus Kabiru, a visual artist, introduces viewers to his remarkable collection of “Boobs” fashioned solely with found materials.
Strolling Series (2014)
Directed by Cecile Emeke, Strolling is a critically acclaimed short documentary film series taking viewers on a stroll with people in many cities and countries around the world. While strolling, viewers have refreshingly raw and honest conversations about different issues confronting today’s society. Everything from sexuality, gender, race, philosophy, art, history, feminism, and anything else the mind can think of, are touched in this docu-series which purposes to connect the scattered and untold stories of the Black and African diaspora.
Mandela, My Dad and Me (2015)
Directed by Daniel Vernon, Mandela, My Dad and Me chronicles Idris Elba’s journey of self-exploration while portraying Nelson Mandela in the 2013 film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The hour-long documentary also shows the Ghanaian-Sierra Leonean actor recording an album of South African music titled ‘Mi Mandela’ and grieving over his father’s death.
Directed by Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman, Sembéne! is a feature-length HD documentary that tells the true story of the “father of African cinema”, Ousmane Sembéne. In 1952, Sembéne, a dockworker and fifth-grade dropout from Senegal, began dreaming the seemingly impossible, to become the storyteller for a new Africa. He became a self-taught novelist and filmmaker who fought a monumental fifty-year battle to give African stories to Africans. Using rare archival footage and more than one hundred hours of exclusive materials, Samba Gadjigo, Sembéne’s long-term friend and biographer details the true life epic story of an ordinary man who became a courageous spokesman for the marginalised, as well as a world-renowned auteur.
Mali Blues (2015)
Directed by Lutz Gregor, Mali Blues is a musical documentary that follows rising world music star, Fatoumata Diawara as she prepares for her first-ever concert performance in her home country of Mali at the Festival of the Niger in 2015. Diawara who had a memorable cameo as a singer being punished in Abderrahmane Sissako’s Academy Award-nominated film Timbuktu, has a complicated relationship with Mali, especially after she fled from an arranged marriage. The documentary showcases the blues music of Mali, artists and the beauty of African colours and clothing. It features the master artiste, Bassekou Kouyaté who is a firm believer in the power of voices and others like skilled rapper Master Soumy and Tuareg musician Ahmed Ag Kaedi who was forced to flee his desert home under threats from fundamentalists to cut off his fingers.
Mali Blues is a firm testament to the quality of music from Mali, as well as a tribute to the country’s courageous and resilient people.
May 20, 2019