David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams in "A United Kingdom". Picture: Supplied
David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams in "A United Kingdom". Picture: Supplied

Explore Africa with Showmax classic films this Africa Day

By Entertainment Reporter Time of article published May 25, 2020

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With the borders shut down, planes halted, movements restricted in the many countries as the world continue the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, this doesn’t mean you can’t explore your continent this Africa Day. 

Showmax has compiled this starter guide to classic African films to commemorate the 57th annual Africa Day.

Botswana: "A United Kingdom" (2016)

The year before South Africa formalised Apartheid in 1948, King Seretse Khama (two-time Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo) of the neighbouring British protectorate of Bechuanaland married a British white woman, Ruth Williams (Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike). 

This upset both their families, not to mention the governments of South Africa, South West Africa, Rhodesia and the United Kingdom, who tried to declare Khama unfit to rule.  

The opening film of the 2016 BFI London Film Festival, A United Kingdom is more than just a heart-warming true story of love overcoming all odds: it’s also the story of Botswana’s independence, its transition to democracy, and its fight to retain the rights to any diamonds found within its borders. 

Director Amma Asante (The Handmaid’s Tale) won the Black Reel Award for Outstanding World Cinema Motion Picture; Guy Hibbert (Eye in the Sky) won a British Screenwriters' Award for Best British Feature Film Writing, and South African actress Terry Pheto (Tsotsi) was nominated for a British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Seretse’s sister, Naledi Khama.

Watch the trailer below: 

Cape Verde: "Nha Fala / My Voice My Voice" (2002)

Flora Gomes’ "Nha Fala / My Voice My Voice" follows Vita, a young woman from a family in Cape Verde that has been cursed: any woman in the family who sings will be struck dead. But while studying in Paris, she falls in love with a musician and becomes an international star. Convinced she’s proved the curse isn’t real, she returns to Cape Verde to convince her family.

"Nha Fala / My Voice My Voice" won six international awards, including the Laterna Magic Prize at Venice in 2002, and was the only film from Africa to compete at Berlin that year. 

Grammy-nominated Cameroonian star Manu Dibango, who tragically passed away from Covid-19 in March 2020, wrote and produced the film’s music. 

Watch the trailer below:

"Egypt: Bab El Hadid / Cairo Station" (1958)

In "Bab El Hadid / Cairo Station", Youssef Chahine both directs and stars as Qinawi, a crippled newspaper vendor who falls for a lemonade seller, Hanouma, who is engaged to another station worker, Abu-Serih. As Abu-Serih tries to unionise the station workers, Qinawi’s fixation on Hanouma crosses the line from innocent crush to dangerous obsession. 

Cairo Station was included in "The Story of Film", the definitive history of cinema, and Chahine went on to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Cannes in 1997. 

Watch the trailer below:

Eswatini: "Liyana" (2017)

Liyana is a genre-defying documentary that tells the story of five children in the Kingdom of Eswatini who, with some guidance from South African storyteller Gcina Mhlope, turn past trauma into an original fable about a girl named Liyana, who embarks on a perilous quest to save her young twin brothers. 

The film weaves Liyana’s animated journey together with poetic documentary scenes to create an inspiring tale of perseverance and hope.

Winner of over 35 awards, Liyana is the directorial debut of Swaziland-born-and-raised Aaron Kopp, with his wife Amanda. Before moving into directing, Aaron shot the Oscar-winning documentary "Saving Face" and the Oscar-nominated "The Hunting Ground". 

Liyana is executive produced by Emmy winner Thandie Newton (Westworld), produced by Oscar winner Daniel Junge (Saving Face), and edited by Davis Coombe (Chasing Coral, Chasing Ice). Nigerian Shofela Coker created the stunning animated artwork, while South African Philip Miller composed the score. 

Watch the trailer below:

Kenya: "Supa Modo" (2018)

Jo (Stycie Waweru) is a witty nine-year-old obsessed with Jackie Chan movies. She’s also terminally ill. When she is taken back to her rural village to live out the rest of her short life, her only comfort is her dream of being a superhero - a dream her rebellious teenage sister Mwix (Nyawara Ndambia), overprotective mother Kathryn (Maryanne Nungo) and the entire village of Maweni think they can fulfill.

Directed by Kenyan Likarion Wainaina and produced by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Perfume, Babylon Berlin), Supa Modo has won over 50 international awards.

Watch trailer below:

Malawi: "Buddha in Africa" (2019)

In a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Africa, a Malawian teenager finds himself torn between his African roots and Chinese upbringing. 

Once the star performer with dreams of becoming a martial arts hero like Jet Li, Enock is now in his final year of school and has to make some tough decisions about his future. Will he return to his relatives in his home village or study abroad in Taiwan? 

Directed by South African Nicole Schafer, Buddha in Africa was praised by Variety as “a complicated portrait of what’s been described as the latest chapter in Africa’s long struggle against colonisation.”

"Buddha in Africa" screened at IDFA 2019, arguably the world’s top documentary festival, as part of their prestigious Best Of Fests line-up, after winning Best South African Documentary at the Durban International Film Festival. At the 2020 SAFTAs, "Buddha" in Africa won both Best Documentary and Best Directing.

Watch the trailer below:

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