The cinema of Africa has a sparse history, with Egypt leading the way until the middle of the 20th century. Cairo Station is one of the best examples of Egyptian cinema and it inspired a number of American and European films. I selected 12 countries to focus on for Africa, with a few American films added into the mix to represent lesser recognized countries.
- Egypt – Cairo Station was the obvious choice for Egypt. The slow descent into madness of its lead character who faces rejection from the woman he loves. There are elements of this film that are reminiscent of films like Psycho and its message of mistreatment is still relevant 60 years later.
- Algeria – Outside the Law takes place mostly in France, but it focuses on three Algerian brothers who find themselves on the other side of the law as they fight for their freedom. French-made Of Gods and Men tells the story of nine monks living in Algeria who are captured by extremists.
- Tunisia – As I Open My Eyes is the story of Farah, a teenager who seeks freedom from the oppression of the Tunisian government despite warnings of the consequences. There is a lot of music in this film as Farah follows her dreams to be a musician until a violent act shakes her to the core.
- Nigeria – The Wedding Party was the highest-grossing film in Nigeria (until it was overtaken by its sequel). This film follows a wedding in Nigeria and features a number of humorous disruptions to the ceremony. This film isn’t the best example of Nigerian cinema, but its popularity makes it a great example of what people like.
- Chad – A Screaming Man represents a surprising turn in the life of a Chadian father who finds himself willing to risk his son’s life in order to maintain the life he’s come to know. Grigris follows a disabled dancer who gets pulled into a life of crime to support himself. Both films address the economic struggles of Chad and how its citizens were forced to cope.
- Ethiopia – Difret is one of those films that should enrage everyone who watches it. The forced kidnapping of a child bride seems like it should have been outlawed decades ago, but this still existent practice nearly costs a child her life in this unbelievably true story of a young girl who just wants to go to school.
- Mozambique – Sleepwalking Land represents the remnants of war-torn Africa as a young boy and an old man wander across Mozambique seeking safety. This film follows two stories as the boy discovers a journal which puts the civil war into very deadly perspective while its survivors find themselves with nothing left.
- South Africa – Tsotsi represents the crime-addled parts of Johannesburg and focuses on the kidnapping of a child during a routine robbery. Crime requires anonymity and this film highlights the lengths criminals go to to protect it. District 9 is an allegory for racial inequity in South Africa but it also plays as a fantastic sci-fi action film.
- Kenya – Rafiki was banned in Kenya at the time of its release due to its portrayal of homosexuality between two women. This film challenges the standards of Kenyan law and shares a truly heart-warming story that speaks volumes about the difference between what’s legal and what is right.
- Senegal – Atlantics is a ghost story set in an economically-struggling Senegal and follows a group of women who become possessed by the men that they lost in a shipwreck. The tragedy of this film is that those lost were seeking a better life and their return is for revenge against the man who forced them to leave.
- Morocco – Horses of God is the story of radical terrorism and how it influences the lives of children until they become the adults who often have no choice but to seek martyrdom. Razzia tells the story of 8 different residents outside of Casablanca whose lives are interconnected in unusual ways. Constant references to the film “Casablanca” don’t go awry.
- Mali – Timbuktu is the story of consequences under a jihadist regime. It follows a cattle herder who makes a fatal mistake and is forced to confront his own mortality as he seeks forgiveness for his crimes. This film tries to address the best way to achieve peace of mind for a loss that threatens to unravel two families.
American films: The English Patient (Libya), Blood Diamond (Sierra Leone), The Last King of Scotland (Uganda), Hotel Rwanda (Rwanda), Roar (Tanzania), Madagascar (Madagascar), and of course Black Panther (Wakanda)