Africa IN movies
Movies and documentaries from
Africa -or about Africa. This is no way near a complete list. I have
first of all selected movies
that are most accessible. Some of these films are commercial hits, while
the best African movies can be very hard to find in shops or cinemas.
The films are roughly categorized as you can see to the left.
African Cinema (film
Africa (especially West Africa) is producing quite a number of films.
Sadly very few of these ever reaches USA and Europe - and even less are
released on video or DVD. The style and cinematographic language of films
produced in Africa are slower and very different from what we are used
to (up north and in the west). But that should absolutely not scare you
off. Some African films are highly acknowledged works of art and others
gives you a rare chance to understand African history or life in Africa
today. All in all it can be very rewarding to dig a little deeper into
african films. In the list are also included some of the major American and European movies about Africa. Please be aware that the short reviews are mainly based on the movies' description of African and African culture. The movies below could be a place to start.
Please note: this page has not been updated recently!
The Last King of Scotland
USA, UK (2006)
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Despite its title, the movie is set in Uganda during the 70's horror-regime of dictator Idi Amin. The movie follow Amin's personal physician and his growing moral dillemmas. A young scottish doctor goes to Africa in search of adventure and with a wonderful (rare!) open mind. But gets himself a bit too close to the action. Amin gets a personality and as the physician, we (the audience) is tempted to like him though he was no doubt a psychopath killer. The horror and violence are not ignored, but described in a way that makes it possible to watch the movie. The storyline about the doctor is not a "true story" but nevertheless a good story telling many truths. Great movie with a fantastic performance by Forrest Whitaker. The description of the European man meeting Africa is very different, free from prejudices and far better than seen in most other movies. Filmed on location in UK and Uganda. Watch it!
Directed by Edward Zwick. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly
The theme of conflict (blood) diamonds financing African wars is of huge importance. The problem is not new, but it seems this film has been a “wake up call” for many and finally brought the world's attention to the problem. Hats off for that, but still the film could have told a better story and it could have been politically stronger. The movie wants it all, but is caught up somewhere in between.
It can be seen as good entertainment-action (if the violence doesn't get too much for you) but personally I find it difficult to sympathize with the story's main protagonist at all. The character played by Leonardo DiCaprio is a greedy, selfish mercenary and I simply don't like him ...even though he might “redeem” his sins in the unlikely end of the movie. The romance with the female journalist is uninteresting, and the real hero of the movie (the African) is only described as a subordinate character.
The movie has managed to provoke a strong reaction from the diamond industry, but it could actually have been much stronger in its criticism of the industry and the Western hypocrisy. It is unclear what part the American plays in the story, but in the final scene he makes a phony speech about our obligation to do something about the problems. All in all ...this movie is still one of the better Hollywood attempts in describing African conflicts.
The organisations Global Wittness and Amnesty International has been involved in the creation of the movie. Visit the campaign website www.blooddiamondaction.org Filmed on location in South Africa and Mozambique.
Carmen in Khayelitsha / U-Carmen eKhayelitsha
South Africa (2004)
South African version of the classic Carmen drama wins first prize in the prestigious Berlin Film Festival 2005
February 20th 2005 a South African movie by the director Mark Dornford-May surprisingly won the Golden Bear award at the annual film festival in Berlin. The film starring Pauline Malefane in the title role is a new version of the Carmen story which has already made it into film more than 30 times. This time it is different though, as the passionate loves tory takes place in the South African township Khayelitsha -and all words are spoken and sung in the clicking isiXhosa language. Co-starring in the movie are Andries Mbali, Andiswa Kedama, Sibulele Mjali, Lungelwa Blou and Andile Tshoni. The movie still has to premiere in South Africa and will hopefully soon reach a worldwide audience. A few years ago a Senegalese version of the Carmen story was made. It was directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka and it has been released on DVD. See Karmen Gei below. The film Hotel Rwanda was also presented at the 2005 festival.
African musical version of the Carmen drama directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka. Great images and editing and the film is easy to access if you are a "beginner" to African cinema. There a a few holes in the story-telling, but the film is genearally very entertaining. Musically the film uses both traditional senegalese singing, griot choirs and jazz -and it works very well. The Karmen character is played by the long-legged and very beautiful Djeïnaba Diop.
Classic african satire by acclaimed director Ousmane Sembene.
Directed by Ousmane Sembene.
Mama Africa: Growing Up Urban
Review quoted from Amazon:
Few feature-length African films get released in the U.S., so it's rare
indeed to get to see worthy short films from that vast continent. Mama
Africa consists of three such films--all directed by women--and actress-musician
Queen Latifah introduces each one. The first, Bridget Pickering's "Uno's
World," is from Namibia and centers around Uno (Sophie David), a
25-year-old party girl who falls for a commitment-shy criminal and gives
birth to his child. Ngozi Onwurah's "Hang Time" is from Nigeria
and concerns poor but promising basketball player Kwami (Brian Birogi),
who makes a Faustian deal for a new pair of sneakers. Lastly, Zulfah
Otto-Sullies's "Raya," from South Africa, portrays the difficulties
facing a single mother attempting to go straight after a stint in prison.
All three films present universally difficult moral quandaries that aren't
always satisfactorily resolved, but are well acted by talented performers.
Includes three bonus short films: Bintou (by Fanta Nacro, 2001), Riches
(by Ingrid Sinclair, 2001), One Evening in July (by Raja Amari, 2001)
Refreshing different views on filmmaking from Africa. Professional and very recommendable!
Directed by Michael Raeburn
Romantic comedy about a young african man fighting to get the beautiful
JIT is the name for the pop-music of Zimbabwe. The film has an almost
full-length soundtrack of great music. The main character is a young boy
called UK. People has always said he will go far -maybe as far as the
United Kingdom. UK is ambitious, but he has not plans of leaving Zimbabwe
- All he wants is to marry the beautiful Sofi. That is not easy when you
are without money and too clumsy to keep a job. One point in the story
is that UK has to combine his new modern money-seeking life with the traditions.
He should not forget to take care of his family in the village - and he
should certainly not forget to honour and pay attention to advises from
his ancestors. Everywhere he goes UK has a guardian angel: the woman Yukwa,
is a beer drinking ancestor trying to keep him on the track. In the end
UK manages to get the money for the bride-price. Sofi finally falls in
love with him - not for the money, but for his strong will, ingenuity,
honesty and charm.
The film is first of all for a young audience and can easily be used
for education purposes. But the story is entertaining for others also
as it is told with humour and originality. Anyone who has experienced
life in a modern African city will enjoy the atmosphere and many of the
scenes from this film.
Directed by: Djibril Diop Mambéty
A dark comedy. An original Swiss play set in an African village in Senegal.
Directed by: Souleymane Cissé
Watching Yeelen ("Brightness") is a challenge and a joy. The story about a young man's initiation and fight with his father is based on an old legend from Mali. It includes a lot of rituals, traditions and magic. It is fascinating to watch but a bit difficult to follow. This movie is obvioulsy not made for an action-seeking Western audience and nothing is explained or made easy for us. But it doesn't really matter. I will just have to watch it again :-) The images are fantastic and the protagonists takes us on a journey through some of the different cultures in Mali, including the land of Bambara, Peulh, Fulani and Dogon.
Touki Bouki (The hyena's journey)
Directed by: Djibril Diop Mambéty
Faces of Women (Visages de femmes )
France / Ivory Coast (1985)
Directed by: Désiré Ecaré
Stories of jealousy set in an African Village.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Directed and written by Jamie Uys
Bushmen, schoolteachers and gangsters in an action-comedy written and
directed by Jamie Uys. The story starts when a pilot throws away an
Coca Cola bottle when overflying Botswana. The bottle hits a bushman
who wonders why the Gods gave him this strange gift. After experiencing
dark side of modern technology, he sets out to find the end of the world
and throw away the bottle. Not big art, but very funny indeed.
with a dry (but hillarious) narrator, lousy music, slapstick comedy,
fast-motion sequences and cheap technical tricks, a clumpsy white scientist
a bushman who turns out to be the real hero. Most people who have seen
it never stops loving it and seeing it again and again.
The film was followed by a sequel in 1988 which almost reaches the same level. Again the bushman Xi is starring together with a bunch of so-called civilised people. The story takes off when the two children of Xi dispappear and he wanders of to search for them. Several more sequels has since been released but not from the original
producers. One of them is a Chinese (!) film called "Fei
zhou he shang". The Chinese people in this story crashes in Africa
and ends up in the same Bushman village we know so good. What a crazy idea.
Buy: the Gods Must Be Crazy 1 and 2
Burkina Faso, Ghana, USA, UK, Germany (1993)
Directed by Haile Gerima
Life Is Rosy (La Vie Est Belle)
Belgium, France, Zaire (DR Congo)(1987)
Directed by Benoît Lamy and Mweze Ngangura
A musical story about a man coming to Kinshasa in search of love and
music. Starring congolese singer Papa Wemba.
Cameroon, France (1992)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Bekolo
This amusing film gives you a good idea about the "natural magic"
and daily life in Douala, Cameroon. Also view
photos from Doula, Cameroon.
Burkina Faso, Switzerland, France
MAANGAMIZI - THE ANCIENT ONE
A Film By Martin Mhando and Ron Mulvihill
From the official website:
MAANGAMIZI - THE ANCIENT ONE is a story about three women; a doctor,
her patient and the ancient and mysterious ancestor who brings them together.
It is a tale of healing through love, compassion and forgiveness. It
is the spiritual journey of the soul. It is a story that seeks to reclaim
the connection between Africa and her Diaspora. It is a story that dares
to represent the histories of two continents as it peels away layers
upon layers of pain and ultimately brings healing of the soul.
The film has not been released in cinemas, but shown at several filmfestivals.
The film can be ordered through the official website: www.grisgrisfilms.com
Directed by Jason Xenopoulos
Starring Michael Power, Buki Ajaki and Thami Ngubeni
Sponsored by Guinness Beer (who originally created the "Michael Power" character
for advertising campaigns)
Michael Power (South African actor) plays an international journalist
(called Michael Power!) who starts out covering the war in Kosovo and then goes to Africa with
the aim to write a story about clean water for the people of an unnamed African country. The movie is athriller with action elements and beautifully filmed in several countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Cameroon.
Maybe not very African in its style, but filmed on location in Africa,
presenting a different image and unique as an African action movie and very entertaining.The theme of the film is good, but it all becomes TOO politically correct and the story becomes too artificial and actually a bit boring. The idea for the moview is concived be an advertising bureau and they have deafinitely have too much to say on the production. The look of the movie is like a 90 minutes advertising for Guiness, which is also a bit damaging for the overall impression.
Settlers in Africa
France, Cameroon , 1988
Starring: Isaach De Bankolé, Giulia Boschi and François
Directed by Claire Denis
Slow paced and demanding, but VERY recommendable film about a young woman's
memories of her childhood in Cameroon. Autobiographical
film by French director Claire Denis. Without doubt the best movie made
about the European colonisers in Africa, because it dares to take up the
complex relationships between black and white - master and servant.
Out of Africa
Directed by Sydney Pollack
With Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Klaus Maria Brandauer. Big Hollywood
movie about the Danish Author Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) and her life
as a coffee farmer in Kenya. Great pictures, dramatic
and with a well told story, but most of all typical Hollywood-style story
from the beautiful and colourful Africa: The white people enjoys life
with tea, horseriding and safaris with Mozart on the turntable. No, or
very small, effort is put in describing the lifes of the true owners of
the Kenyan country, who had to pay the price of the shameless behaviour
of the colonisers.
The Flame Trees of Thika
Popular TV-series based on the autobiographic book by Elspeth Huxley.
Filmed on location in Kenya. The series is in 7 episodes available as
VHS box-set or 2 DVD's.
"Flame Trees of Thika" is a production made for TV.
The photography is okay, storytelling straight forward and the actors
perform well, but not really great. Still the episodes are well worth
seeing also today as they give an interesting view into the life of some
of the first European settlers in East Africa. And this is described better
here than in most of the Hollywood dramas with the same subject.
Almost all stories from the early settlers has some naive and semi-racist
views on the Africans. These opinions are expressed through the characters
in "Flame Trees...", but the film/director always manage to
argue against them. More than once it ends up with the Europeans learning
dignity and humanity from the Africans, whom they feel superior to. The
British family deals very good with some difficult situations in their
new home. Other challenges are handled really badly and that's making
the story more credible.
"Flame Trees..." is intended for a family audience and
too much time is spent with Elspeth's love for animals and especially
her pet Duiker. The difficult relationship between the two leading African
men on the farm is far more interesting than a herd of elephants. The
weakest chapters are the ones about animals and the strongest are about
relationships and intrigues played out between people.
I Dreamed of Africa
Hugh Hudson's movie is based on an autobiographic book by Italian Kuki
book). A modern day version of Out of
Africa not adding much. A "romantic drama"
about a european couples settling in Kenya (in
1972) and their struggles with their new home. A bit of a yawn,
as movies trying hard to tell "true stories" often are.
Hollywood star Kim Basinger plays Kuki, but is left with nothing
to do throughout
most of the story. Maybe the real Kuki Gallman is a fascinating/extraordinary
person, but we won't know from this movie. You will learn nothing
new about life in Kenya, but you can
in South Africa and Laikipia, Kenya.
Nowhere in Africa
Germany (2002). Original title: "Nirgendwo in Afrika"
Based on a true story (autobiographical novel by Stephanie Zweig) of
a Jewish family who flees the Nazi regime in 1938 for a remote farm in
Kenya. After being opressed in Germany, they
are in risk of becoming oppressors themselves. Written and directed by
Caroline Link. The movie won the 2002 Academy Award for
Drama among millionaires in Nairobi around WW2. Directed by Michael Radford.
With John Hurt, Greta Scacci, Charles Dance a.o. Filmed on location in
Kenya and England.
Black and White in Color / Noirs et blancs en couleur
France, Côte D'Ivoire (1976)
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. An comedy about the madness of war and
racism. French settlers in an African country finds out that war has
broke out in
They start mobilising the Africans to fight their neighbours in the German
colony. Very recommendable. Winner of the Academy Award (Oscar) for
Best Foreign Language Film. The DVD comes along with an old, but interesting documentary about an expedition to Papau New Guinea.
Battle of Algiers (La Battaglia di Algeri)
Algeria, Italy (1965)
The Algerian civil war viewed from both grim sides. The Algerians sought
independence as all other African countries in the sixties - and as
other places the French govenment hit back very hard. The shocking and
dramatic story is historically correct and brutal. The film has changed
opinions about what was going on in the colonies and it was also
easy to draw parallels to the war in Vietnam. When viewed today is
difficult not to think about the American involvement in Iraq. Today
Directed by Gillo
Directed by Raoul Peck
The political thriller is the true story of Patrice Lumumba, the first
head of government in Congo 1960. Lumumba had only 2 months in the government
as he was soon after killed with assistance from CIA and Joseph Mobutu
(later Mobutu Sese Seko). Director Raoul Peck also made a documentary
about Lumumba in 1991.
More info and background on Partrice Lumumba and the movie:
Movies about Westerners going to Africa for some reason or another.
They characters in these stories often has a lot to learn ...about Africa
about themselves. The movies below shows many different approaches to
Africa and are presented in no special order.
Man to Man
France, South Africa, UK (2005)
Epic story of an European Antropologist studying Pygmies in Central Africa at the time of Darwin. Directed by Regis Wargnier and starring Joseph Fiennes and Kristin Scott Thomas. Coming to cinemas in the spring of 2005.
White Hunter Black Heart
Directed by Clint Eastwood and this is far better than Dirty Harry.
The movie is based on a novel by Peter Viertel. It is about Peter Viertel
and John Huston's experiences filming 'The African
Queen' on location in Africa. Starring Clint Eastwood as John Wilson/John
Heart of Darkness
American TV film from 1994. This is the famous book by Joseph Conrad
which also inspired Apocalypse
Now. This film can not compete with the Coppola masterpiece, but it
has more to offer if you are interested in the brutal history of Congo.
Tim Roth is sent up to the Congo River to find out what happened to the
station manager Kurtz (played by John Malkowich). Isaach De Bankolé
(from Chocolat) is also among the cast. The film
is directed by Nicolas Roeg (director of Don't
Look Now a.o.)
The Sheltering Sky
Debra Winger and John Malkovich stars in this film by director Bernardo
Betolucci. An american couple travels in North Africa in search of new
inspiration for their art and most of all for their life together. New
doors are opened as they move into Africa, but they seem to take the couple
further apart from themselves and each other. Fantastic photography filmed on location in Morocco,
Gorillas In The Mist: The Story
of Dian Fossey
Based on the true story of scientist Dian Fossey who settles in the Congolese
jungle to study and protect mountain gorillas. Sigourney Weaver stars
in this movie, directed by Michael Apted -and above average for Hollywood-Africa
dramas. Filmed on location in Kenya.
The story of Stanley's expedition into Africa in search of the only other
white man there: Dr. Livingstone, I pressume? Directed by Otto Brower
and Henry King. Starring Spencer Tracy as Stanley and Cedric Hardwicke
Black Hawk Down
This is not really a film about Africa -in fact this film is almost without
a story at all (The main part of the story is told in title cards). The
purpose of the film must be to show how it is to be in war: no reflections
or deep insight, but two hours+ of brutality and very bloody killing.
The film recreates the disastrous mission in Mogadishu (October 3, 1993)
that resulted in the death of 19 American soldiers. The Americans withdrew
from Somalia shortly after this incident. It is briefly mentioned in a
end-title card that more than 1000 Somalis were killed in the battle,
but this film only shows the Somali population as a faceless screaming,
violent, murderous mass. Okay not fair: I guess the movie has a total
of about 50 seconds showing scared children and women, a father with dead
son and son with a dead father. Director Ridley Scott avoids all the political
questions that could have made this into something special. According
to the film (and the book behind it), the generals are to blame of the
terrible mistakes made on this day. But the horrible ending that insists
that we (incl. Somalians) should see the American soldiers as heroes surely
brings a bad taste.
Technically "Black hawk Down" is impressive and very well
made. It was filmed partly on location in Morocco
(USA/Germany 2003) Directed by Martin Campbell.
Romantic drama about releif/aid workers in the world's dangerous conflict zones including a refugee camp in Ethiopia in the 80's. The movie established Angelina Jolie's profile as a goddwill ambassador of UNHCR. Well-meaning, but not really interesting and several details seems a bit unrealistic. Too little political facts and insight and too much romance for my taste, but it seems the movie has also been an eye-opener for many. The Africa part of the movie is filmed on location in Namibia.
Tears of the Sun
Patriotic, action-war movie about US soldier (Bruce Willis) sent
to a Nigeria haunted by unrest and civil war to rescue a
self-sacrificing doctor (Monica Bellucci). The professional american soldiers wittness a gruesome massacre
on a defenseless village, grows a conscience and decides to do it the American way. The soldiers decides to help Nigeria even if it isn't "their war" and in the end the African people can thank the Americans for their freedom. The
film is also produced "the American way": astonishing photography, grand emotions and lots of explosions and
background music. As the tough soldier, Bruce Willis has only one face-expression throughout the film, and he manages to sum up the whole continent in a pseudo-deep one-liner: "God has already left Africa". The movie might be pretty good entertainment if you can look away from everything else, but it is not doing any good to the stereotypic image of Africa which oftens comes from Hollywood. It is very unrealistic and in movies like this, Africans are portrayed simply as weak victims or evil murderers. I don't think there is any reference to a specific war or conflict in Nigeria. USA has plenty of questionable oil interests in the country, but none of this is being touched in the movie and there seem to be no specific reason that Nigeria was chosen as the scene of crime. The movie is directed by Antoine Fuqua and shot on location ...in Hawaii.
Directed by Basil Dearden
and Eliot Elisofon
Charlton Heston and
Laurence Olivier stars in this epic story of colonial Britains
fight against islamic rebels in Sudan. Don't expect a film intended
history class room. Great in the style of "Lawrence of Arabia",
but it doesn't quite reach the same level.
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
The story of Tarzan has been told since the earliest days of filmmaking. Some times good, some times bad. Greystoke is at least a little different and it has its great moments also. Hugh Hudson directed a cast of Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, James Fox, Andie MacDowell and of course Christopher Lambert as Greystoke/Tarzan. Noone is really up to their very best in this film, but it is beautifully shot on location in Cameroon. Take a look at the Chutes d'Ekom on the Cameroon photo page.
Africans in Europe
Code Unknown (Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages)
The story of an African family in Paris is just one of several stories
told in this complex, but rewarding French film. If you liked Polish
Kieslowski you will probably also like this film. Through the film we
see fragments of peoples life with no clear association (hence the
The glimpses we get of discussions, in the immigrant family from Mali,
points out some essential conflicts. Written and directed by Michael
Juliette Binoche is the closest you get to a main character in this movie.
Romuald et Juliette (Mama, There's A White man In Your bed)
Comedy by Coline Serreau about two very different personalities falling
in love. The president of a big company (Daniel Auteuil) is getting framed
in a big business scandal. He finds out that the only one who can help
him is the black cleaning lady (Firmine Richard). Amusing and optimistic.
Denmark / Sweden (2005).
"Manderlay" premiered at this years Cannes film festival and is coming to cinemas worldwide in summer 2005. The story is about slavery in Southern USA in the 1930's. A political and provocative movie can be expected as the movie is created by the controversial Danish director Lars Von Trier. It is the second part of his "Grace-trilogy". Nicole Kidman was hired to play the main part as she did in Dogville (2003), but she pulled out due to conflicting shooting schedules. The film is starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Isaach De Bankolé, Willem Dafoe, Danny Glover, Lauren Bacall, Jean-Marc Barr and more. Filmed on location and studios in Denmark and Sweden.
Steven Spielberg's epic drama about the west African slave Cinque and his
struggle for freedom, which takes place in an American courtroom.
The classic TV-series about the slave Kunta Kinte based on a book by
Alex Haley. Roots has now been released on a DVD wbox-set with lots of
Cobra Verde (Slave Coast)
West Germany (1988)
The Brazilian bandit "Cobra Verde" is deported to West Africa to reestablish
the slave trade. He is doomed to fail, but surprisingly manages to create an army of amazon warriors revolting against the Dahomey king. This was the
last collaboration by director Werner Herzog and the charismatic actor Klaus Kinski who gives a truly mad performance. The story takes place in pre-colonial Ghana and is
based on the Bruce
Chatwin novel 'the Viceroy of Ouidah'. The fascinating story includes many authentic details about early West African culture. A bit weird, but entertaining with great pictures and scenes with hundreds of extras. Many shots or scenes seems out of place and would normally have been cut from a movie. But still it might be exaclty these images that makes the film worth watching. The story is about the person Cobra Verde. Kinski IS extraordinary to watch in this role, but in fact it is really Africa and all the mysterious sceneries that catch the viewers attention. Filmed on location in Ghana.
The Middle passage
Xica da Silva (The Silver Queen)
Directed by Carlos Diegues. Based on the true story of a slave girl using
her wits and sexuality to become one of the most powerful and rich
women in a Brasilian mining town. A story told with humour and energy.
Denzel Washington portrays the South African activist Steven Biko in
this movie directed by Richard Attenborough. Filmed on location in Kenya
France, UK, South Africa, USA (1992)
Directed by Darrell Roodt
Musical about the schoolgirl Sarafina in apartheid South Africa. Starring Leleti
Khumalo as Sarafina and also with Miriam Makeba and Whoopie Goldberg. A film
that touched many people and informed well about the apartheid regime. Maybe
a little more "Hollywood" than Africa in the style and storytelling.
The Power of One
Australia, France, USA (1992)
Directed by John G. Avildsen. Featuring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Morgan Freeman, John Gielgud and more.
The story of an English kid growing up in South Africa in th early days of apartheid (30's and 40's). A well-meaning good drama with a story that sometimes seems a bit too romantic-naive. The new James bond actor Daniel Craig can be seen in one of his first appearances. He plays a nazi-Afrikaaner sergeant called 'Botha'. Filmed on location in UK and Zimbabwe.
The Genocide in Rwanda
In the past few years a number of films have been made about the genocide in Rwanda. Many of these are really good movies, but hard to watch because of the complete horror they describe. It is obvioulsy good that the genocide is not forgotton and that we all hopefully learn about the mistakes that were made. One could only wish that the same attention would be on the current conflicts in Sudan and eastern Congo. It can't wait. It is happening NOW!
Canada, UK, Italy, South Africa (2004).
'Hotel Rwanda' is difficult to watch due to it's subject, but it is also a very good movie. We are taken (only!) 10 years back in time to the genocide in Rwanda: a million people were slaughtered in only 3 months. The victims were unarmed men, women and children guilty in nothing else than belonging to the "wrong" ethnic group. So... No, it's no fun watching, but actually a touching and important movie that ought to have a big audience. The movie is "designed" to shaming us of the fact that the West didn't do anything to stop the bloodshed until it was too late -and this is exactly what it does. Luckily the director helps the audience through by choosing to tell one of the few positive stories, which actually leaves us with a bit of hope.
The movie is based on a true-life Hero: the Rwandese hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina, who actually managed to save his own family and several hundred other lives against all odds. This was a remarkable achievement and according to this movie Paul Rusesabagina is a truly remarkable man. He has said that everything shown in the movie is correct and shown exactly as it happened. Paul Rusesabagina opened the doors at the luxury hotel for refugees whether they were Tutsis or Hutus. In the hotel they awaited rescue by the UN forces. But help from the outside world didn’t come to the people of Rwanda, and UN only evacuated the foreigners.
Unfortunately I think the film lost a bit of its credibility because of the English dialogue and the American-style of story telling. I would have preferred to have the characters speak French and Kinyarwanda for authencity. I found it a bit too obvious that the film's couple behaved more like an American family than an African in their private relations and I could also have done without most of the music score. I am happy though that the producers dropped their idea of actually casting Wesley Snipes or Will Smith for the leading role (it was actually considered).
Don Cheadle IS giving a great performance in the main part.
All in all the movie IS very strong and takes complete control of us when we are shown some of the worst and best humans can do to each other. I can't remember the last time i saw an audience so quiet and affected by a movie. Go see it -or buy it on DVD. But this one is not for children! Starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte and Joaquin Phoenix. Directed by Terry George. Filmed on location in South Africa.
A few more movies has already been made about the tragedy in Rwanda. "100 Days", "Shooting Dogs" and "Sometimes in April" are all shot on location in Rwanda. The last one directed by Raoul Peck ("Lumumba") will be available on DVD later this year.
Sometimes in April
France, USA, Rwanda (2005).
Directed by Raoul Peck
Another movie about the genocide in Rwanda. Sometimes in April is directed by Raoul Peck who also made Lumumba. The movie is shot on location in Rwanda and stars Idris Elba, Oris Erhuero, Noah Emmerich, Fraser James, Debra Winger and more.
UK, Germany (2005)
Directed by Michael Caton-Jones
The third of the strong and important movies describing the Rwanda genocide. The 3 movies obviously shares the main story, but covers different details. Also "Shooting Dogs" is a very good movie, but painful to watch because of the description of the horrible chapters in our very recent. Starring John Hurt, Hugh Dancy, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Steve Toussaint. Shot on location in Kigali, Rwanda.
A Sunday in Kigali (Un dimanche À Kigali)
Directed by Robert Favreau
New Canadian film, again about the incidents in Rwanda 1994. With Luc Picard and Fatou N'Diaye. Filmed on location in Kigali. Based on a book by Gil Courtemanche.
Hunting My Husband's Killers
Directed by Jay Knox
Description from Amazon: Lesley Bilinda is determined to track down the killers of her Rwandan husband, Charles, who disappeared during the 1994 genocide, in which up to a million people died. When she returns to Rwanda, where she lived and worked with the charity Tearfund, Lesley faces a web of deception and fear, and uncovers unexpected and unpalatable truths about her husband. Like thousands of other genocide widows she grapples with the inner turmoil of loss and betrayal, but is also challenged to forgive those responsible and practically live out her faith.
Other films about Africa
The Constant Gardener
Germany / UK (2005)
Romantic thriller by Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (City of God) based on the bestselling novel by british author John Le Carré. The movie is about faul play by the pharmaceutical industry and takes place mainly in Kenya, where it was also shot. The book was something of an eye-opener about the parmaceutical industry and their involvement in Africa. Don't miss this great movie starring Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Hubert Koundé and more.
Hommage à Noir
Directed by Ralph Schmerberg
Documentary, or maybe "wordless visual poetry" is a better description. Beautiful tableaus with music and filmed in black and white. Filmed on location in Cameroon.
Other films. more info to come. Click on the title to order from Amazon.com.
Nigerian movies (Nollywood)
Nigerian films are a complete genre of its own. Take a good deal of big
cars, houses, guns, rich two-dimensional characters and add a splash
of jealousy, sex, violence and black magic. Chances are you either
love them for their moral tales or just see them as cheap B-movies. Most of the movies are made on low budget with cheap video equipment, but they obviously hit the nail somehow as there is a HUGE audience for them.
African Film festivals and other sources
on the web
Fespaco Annual Filmfestival in Ouagadougou,
Film Festival of the Dhow Countries
Annual EastAfrican filmfestival in Zanzibar.
South African Indie Film Site
The African Film Festival in New
of African Studies Emory University - Film and Video Resources for
Salaam.dk - multicultural filmfestival in Denmark
- Film festival in Copenhagen