10 Of The Best Documentary Films about Africa
It’s Oscar season, when the world celebrates films. We’ve sought out 10 of the finest documentaries made in Africa. Some are shattering, some are hopeful and all are powerful real-life stories about fragile humans up close. Check out 10 of the best documentary films about Africa.
1. God Grew Tired of Us (2006)
The Lost Boys of Sudan are the 25,000-plus who fled the wars in Sudan. They are only a fraction of the colossally displaced population. In this moving documentary, we follow John, Daniel and Panther — three men from the South Sudan who face perilous adjustment issues with immigration, employment, bigotry, and assimilation in their new lives in New York City. All are heartbroken and damaged from leaving behind loved ones in Africa. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, this documentary is narrated by Nicole Kidman.
Source: imdb.com, wikipedia.com
2. General Idi Amin Dada: A Self-Portrait (1974)
This fascinating, timeless, and chilling documentary from the ’70s by French Director Barbet Schroeder invites the viewer into the everyday life of brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. We almost get too comfortable there. We watch him at the height of his power while his forces are committing heinous atrocities on the people of Uganda, but onscreen he is jovial, playing on a boat, participating in a jazz band, smiling and laughing. Entirely creepy and intriguing.
3. Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
An entirely wonderful, charming Oscar-winning documentary, “Searching For Sugar Man” follows two South African fans of Sixto Rodriguez, a little-known U.S. folk singer from Detroit whose songs were bigger than Elvis’s in South Africa. An entire generation of South Africans grew up listening to Rodriguez music, unbeknownst to the artist. From Cape Town to Detroit, this is a very special insight into the power of music and its haunting effects.
Sources: Nytimes.com, wikipedia.com
4. The Square (2013)
The popular, widely received documentary about the Tahrir Square uprisings in Egypt has just been nominated for this year’s Oscar, and is a heavy favorite to win. It’s about the ongoing revolution in Egypt, starting in 2011 with the deposing of Hosni Mubarak, then the triumphant democratic election of Mohamed Morsi, the violent split between the Muslim Brotherhood and its critics, and the 2013 ousting of Morsi. Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim spent 20 months in Tahrir Square, facing down beatings and arrests in order to produce this exquisite film about the struggle for a free Egypt.
Sources: imdb.com, latimes.com
5. Darwin’s Nightmare (2004)
In Tanzania’s Lake Victoria, Nile river perch have been introduced into the waters, laying ruin to the ecosystem with unprecedented results for the human communities living around the area. The predator fish have eaten the species residents once depended upon for local commercial fishing. Perch fillets are now shipped out to European markets for high prices. The documentary also delves into the weapons-running caché that shipping planes are involved in, and the AIDS crisis, which has escalated. It’s a harsh, terrifying look at third-world exploitation and globalization.
Source: wikipedia.com, bbc.co.uk
6. Samsara (2011)
You need to see this beautiful film. From the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia to Turkey to the Ninth Ward in New Orleans, this guided meditation on Eastern philosophy and the cycle of birth, life, and death, is brilliantly captured in sweeping 70 millimeter film, with montages of wordless images which swoop in and out of beautiful and unfortunate settings all over the world. It’s all congealed together as one big message of impermanence and hope.
Sources: imdb.com, examiner.com
7. When we were Kings (1996)
Muhammad Ali and George Foreman faced off in a heavyweight title fight at the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. The fight was orchestrated by hyper-ardent promoter Don King (who offered $5 million to both fighters a little too hastily). He arranged with the corrupt, authoritarian president Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire to host the fight in a brand new stadium. Through stunning archival footage, we follow the pompous, popular Ali through damaged post-colonial Zaire to the “Black Woodstock” musical event in the capital of Kinshasa, to the ultimate fight. A real treasure.
Sources: suntimes.com, imdb.com, sfgate.com
8. Ghosts of Rwanda (2004)
An important film to watch about the delay of aid during the Rwandan genocide, this “Frontline” documentary, broadcast on PBS, was televised as a 10-year commemoration of the 1994 genocide. More than 800,000 Tutsi citizens were slaughtered by Hutu extremists while U.N. forces were ordered to hold back. Watch former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former President Bill Clinton tiptoe around the word “genocide” as they explain the dire situation.
9. War/Dance (2007)
This Oscar-nominated documentary is about the Acholi ethnic group of Northern Uganda, and the talented children of one village who helps them combat despair through music. Most of Northern Uganda was ravaged by the Lord’s Resistance Army and many children were forced to take up arms and kill their own family members. The film brings us close to three young folks who prepare excitedly for a dance and music competition in the capital city of Kampala. All the while, their “safe camp” is protected by defense forces. It’s soulful, heartbreaking, and infused with faith for the youth of Uganda.
Sources: imdb.com, wikipedia.com.
10. A Lion Called Christian
Christian was a lion cub purchased in a London department store by two Australian men. Caring for Christian until he was too big for their London flat, the men reintroduced him into the African savannah at Kenya’s Kora National Reserve. One year later, they journeyed to find Christian, and the results are so positively tear-jerking that, well, you’ll cry. Watch the entire short documentary here, and then think about adopting a goldfish as your next house pet.
Sources: alioncalledchristian.com.au, en.wikipedia.com
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