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10 African Films to Watch During Lockdown

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A GUIDE TO AFRICA

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10 AFRICAN FILMS TO WATCH WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING

As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, your wanderlust, cabin fever or desire to escape is likely to be growing. A well-known solution to this is to watch a film – a good movie promises 1 and a half to 2 hours of transportation to another place, era or planet. Of course, there is no harm in rewatching one of your favourites or the old classics, but why not explore new genres?

Africa has produced some incredible, authentic and beautiful films. Many of these, as you will notice, are based on true stories – a testament to the inspiring perseverance, hard work and talent of Africa’s people. Here are 8 African films to watch while social distancing (here are a few more…)

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1. Tsotsi

This South African film released in 2005 is the perfect gateway into African film. It won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film with an incredible performance from Presley Chweneyagae as the titular character. The film follows the story of a young gang leader who steals a car, only to discover there is a baby on the back seat. Running from the law, Tsotsi desperately looks for someone to help him look after the baby, all while trying to reform his rebellious way of life. Raw and authentic, the film shows a side to South Africa often unshown.

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2. Half of a Yellow Sun

This film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel of the same name, this film is a celebration of African art and literature. Set in 1960s Nigeria, two sisters (Anika Noni Rose and Thandie Newton) have to face their choices and deal with the repercussions of their actions as their country is a torn apart by a brutal civil war.

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3. Queen of Katwe

This Disney film is adaptation of a true story. Phiona, is a 10-year old girl living in the slum of Katwe, in Kamapala, Uganda. Her life is a constant struggle until she is taught how to play chess by missionary, Robert Katende. Phiona becomes fascinated with the game and soon becomes a top player. She starts succeeding in local competitions and tournaments which give her the chance to escape from a life of poverty. This film avoids cliches, and rather offers a strong narrative about rising up against odds and the talent that is often overlooked in Africa.

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4. Town of Runners

This is an inspiring documentary about a small village in Ethiopia that has produced a disproportionately high number of Olympic-calibre athletes. The documentary follows three children as they progress from school athletics to national competitions while transitioning from childhood into adulthood. It shows the blood, sweat and tears behind the work of becoming a world-class athlete and the true value of hard work.

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5. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

Another film based on a true story, the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind follows the story of William Kamkwamba, a 13-year old boy living in a village in Malawi. After his village is struck by a terrible drought and he is kicked out of school when his family can no longer afford the fees, William sneaks into the library and learns how to build a windmill so that he can save the village from a famine. This story is immensely inspiring and once again shows the value of perseverance, ingenuity and talent in Africa.

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6. The First Grader

Another film based on a true story, after the Kenyan government announces the offer of free education, a man in his eighties who is desperate to learn to read and write applies to attend the local primary school. Moved by his passion, the head teacher, played by Naomie Harris, supports him as they go up against opposition from parents and officials. A film full of energy, vitality and humour, it is one of triumph and transformation.

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7. Black Panther

Black Panther is one of the newest Marvel films and is centred around African culture and themes. It is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda, where a technologically advanced African civilization thrives in isolation. The language spoken in Wakanda is in fact Xhosa, one of South Africa’s official languages.  T’Challa becomes the new king of Wakanda and as Black Panther is the protector of his people.  When a powerful enemy reappears, T’Challa is tested as king and protector as he tries to defeat enemies and keep Wakanda and his people safe.

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8. Sembene!

This documentary tells the story of Ousmane Sembene, one of the most influential filmmakers  and political figures of all time.  Sembene was born in Senegal. He was drafted in to serve under the French Military during WW1, before becoming a novelist and then an award-winning director. The documentary gives incredible insight into the man who was one of the first to present Africans with portrayals of Africans dealing with African experiences and realities.

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9. Invictus

Invictus tells the triumphant story of post-Apartheid South Africa. After 27 years imprisonment and his election as president, Nelson Mandela joins forces with the captain of the South African rugby team, Francois Pienaar in an effort to unite the country after decades of divide. This is the inspiring depiction of how South Africa managed to overcome all odds and win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

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10. Timbuktu

Timbuktu flies under the radar, however with it’s almost unheard of 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an Oscar nomination, it is a must-watch. The film is set in Mali and follows the story of the city, Timbuktu, under a reign of terror from Islamic militants and a cattle herder, Kidane, who lives peacefully in the dunes outside the city.

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EXPERIENCE EVEN MORE OF AFRICA…

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