The past two years have seen significant growth in African films and cinema. In a continent with a plethora of diversity in terms of language, culture and style, Africa shines with its unique storytelling and films rooted in heritage and art. The cinema of most African countries dates back to the late 19th century and has blossomed over the years into several notable films encompassing several genres, from slapstick comedy films to thought-provoking cinematic masterpieces.
Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry, is the second largest in the world in terms of production, producing thousands of theatrical releases and independent films every year. The film industries in Ghana and South Africa have also seen significant growth over the years and many films are now streamed on netflix. For a glimpse into the world of African cinema, here are 10 films to remember netflix.
Lionheart has been netflixis Nigeria’s first original film production. The collaboration with Nigerian actress, director and Nollywood veteran, Genevieve Nnaji has been hailed as a positive step in the right direction for African cinema. It follows a young woman who is lucky enough to run her father’s business following his illness. She faces a ton of disrespect and sexism as she tries to save the company from debt and a takeover by a powerful businessman. The film features several notable Nigerian actors and was the very first film the country submitted for the Oscars, although it was ultimately disqualified by the Academy.
The boy who harnessed the wind
Although labeled a British film, the film is set in Malawi and is based on the memoir of the same name by Malawian inventor and engineer, William Kamkwamba. It is also Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut. The film follows a young boy who saves his family and town from starvation by learning to build a windmill to generate water and electricity. The story is heartfelt about determination and love and is an inspiring watch.
This thought-provoking historical film transports viewers back in time to 16th century Zazzau – now Zaria – in Nigeria, and follows the real-life ordeals of warrior queen Amina. The epic period drama details her strength and bravery in a male-dominated country, and tells the story of overcoming obstacles. The famous queen expanded the Hausa Kingdom of Nigeria through several conquests and opened many trade routes in North Africa.
Heralded as one of the most acclaimed African films of all time, this supernatural romantic drama from French-Senegalese director Mati Diop has received praise for its tone and cinematography, as well as its heavy ocean symbolism. The film centers on a young woman whose lover has disappeared, and this absence leads to inexplicable moments of possession and haunted love. Addressing important topics, such as the refugee crisis, grief, loss and class conflict, Atlantics remains one of Africa’s greatest exports.
The wedding party
This romantic comedy-drama is one of the most beloved Nigerian films of all time. Audience Delight took over the country and quickly became the highest-grossing Nigerian film when it was released in 2016, and held the record for four years. A hilarious but heartwarming film about the wars between families before a wedding, this movie featured an ensemble cast of some of the country’s top talent. It was directed by Kemi Adetiba and spawned an equally successful sequel, The wedding party 2.
king of boys
Another brilliant film by famous Nigerian director, Kemi Adetiba was that of 2018 king of boys. A thrilling political drama, this film centers on a powerful and ruthless businesswoman whose lust for power leads her into a fight. As she tirelessly pushes her ambitions further, the secrets of her past threaten to dismantle everything she has worked for. The film’s dark and emotional tone has been praised for its stark contrast to The wedding partylight settings.
This visual masterpiece featured multiple first-time actors and received praise for its poetic tone and use of magic and spiritualism. Filmed in Ghana, the film follows the titular Kojo, whose brother abandoned him to die in a gold mine, and his daughter Esi’s attempt to locate and rescue him with the help of supernatural forces. The film was written and directed by Blitz Bazawule, known as Blitz the Ambassador, in his thought-provoking directorial debut.
One of the darkest films in Nigerian cinema, this psychological drama is named after the country’s Independence Day and is often cited as one of the best films from Africa. The film centers on a policeman, Danladi Waziri, who is sent to investigate the murders of indigenous women in a rural community before the country gains independence from Britain. The film has excellent cinematography and is considered a national cinematic treasure, with compelling acting and enough patriotic moments to make proud.
Also directed by Kunle Afolayan, the 2009 supernatural thriller has one of the most unique storylines in the Nigerian film industry. Two friends come across a mystical sculpture in a shrine. They don’t know that the coin belongs to the Nigerian Goddess Araromire and that she grants seven years of good luck to those who meet her. The two friends end up living wonderful lives for the next seven years, but things go from wonderful to horrible, as unbeknownst to them, seven years of bad luck ensue. The Figure is, to this day, considered one of the finest moments in African cinema and is now part of the curriculum of many university art departments across the country.
A romantic drama set in Johannesburg, South Africa, Catch feelings centers on a black married couple, whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a successful white writer in their home. The film tackles important issues in the country such as racism and post-apartheid relations between citizens, but above all offers a warm and triumphant love story.