Did you know that each year, more movies come out of Nigeria’s “Nollywood” than Hollywood? We’ve picked our top ten films and documentaries from across Africa that you simply have to see. Special shout-out to our @ONEinAfrica followers for their suggestions!
We’ve linked each film on our list to one of the #GlobalGoals—click on the Goal for more information about each issue!
1. Moolaadé (2004) | Senegal
Directed by “the father of African film,” Senegalese Ousmane Sembène, Moolaadé addresses the subject of female genital mutilation. The plot focuses on Collé, the second wife in a polygamous family, who refuses to allow her daughter to be cut. She also protects three young girls from her village from the practice using “Mooladé”—magical protection. The film won the Prize Un Certain Regard at Cannes in 2004.
2. The First Grader (2010) | UK / Kenya
Based on the true story of Kimani Maruge, a Kenyan farmer who enrolled in elementary school at the age of 84 following the government’s announcement of free universal primary education in 2003. National Geographic described it as “a triumphant testimony to the transforming force of education.”
3. Neria (1993) | Zimbabwe
The 90s is seen as the golden age of “Zollywood” and Neria is the most critically-acclaimed film of this decade and highest-grossing film of all time from the country. It portrays the issues faced by a rural woman when she is widowed, including the loss of her farm and thus her livelihood. The soundtrack is by Zimbabwe’s biggest cultural icon, Oliver Mtukudzi.
4. Big Men (2014) | USA / Ghana
This documentary is about the 2007 discovery of oil off the coast of Ghana is noted for its impressive insider access to the workings of big corporate oil firms. The New York Times described it as a “cool and incisive snapshot of global capitalism at work.” Director Rachel Boynton has praised the country for its adoption of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the fact that the Ghanaian Ministry of Finance has committed to publish a detailed analysis of petroleum receipts and their allocation every six months. Transparency is high on the agenda here at ONE, so that is very good to hear!
5. Stealing Africa (2012) | Zambia
In the last ten years, foreign corporations have extracted copper worth over $29 billion from Zambia’s copper mines, but it is still ranked one of the poorest countries in the world. This documentary, which alleges that ten times more is lost due to dodgy tax practices than is given to the country in international aid, looks at the impact of such practices on the country’s development.
6. Stories of Our Lives (2014) | Kenya
Stories of Our Lives is a Kenyan film, released in 2014. Created by the members of The Nest Collective, a Nairobi-based arts group, the film is an anthology of five short films dramatizing true stories of LGBT+ life in Kenya.
7. Tsotsi (2005) | South Africa
One of South Africa’s most successful films, Tsotsi (which translates to “thug”) is set in a city slum in Johannesburg. It follows a young street criminal who steals a car and discovers baby. The movie is a moving portrait of the redemption of a forgotten boy from a neglected community. Tsotsi won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006.
8. Pirate Fishing (2014) | Sierra Leone
The precious marine resources of some of the world’s poorest people are being targeted by industrial scale illegal fishing operations to feed the seafood hungry markets of Europe and Asia. Working with the Environmental Justice Foundation, this investigation for Al Jazeera’s People & Power series takes to the seas off Sierra Leone to expose the multi-million dollar illegal fishing trade. Al Jazeera has recently produced an exceptional interactive game based on the documentary that we highly recommend taking a look at.
9. Virunga (2014) | UK / Democratic Republic of Congo
Virunga focuses on the conservation work of rangers within Virunga National Park and damaging oil exploration activity within the UNESCO World Heritage site. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
10. Beats of the Antonov (2014) | Sudan / South Africa
This documentary deals with the Sudan–SRF conflict in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains regions, focusing in particular on the role of music, heritage and creative traditions in helping the affected communities to sustain themselves culturally and spiritually in the face of the ongoing dispute.