Tag Archives: African cinema

Guimba the Tyrant

Lovely award winning Malian comedy movie “Guimba the Tyrant” (1995) directed by Cheick Omar Sissoko and starring Mouneissa Maiga, Helene Diarra, Lamine Diallo, Falaba Issa Traore, Bala Moussa Keita among others.

The story is set in a fictional Mali village where Guimba (Falaba Issa Traore) is the village chief and a tyrant. He has a dwarf Jangine (Lamine Diallo) for a son.

The dwarf is set to marry the village beauty, Kani (Mouneissa Maiga) but the dwarf is more interested in her mother Keya (Helene Diarra) than the daughter. Then the Guimba becomes greedy and says i will marry Kani for my pleasure.

Kani’s father Mambi (Bala Moussa Keita) rebels and withdraws his oath to get Kani married to Jangine upon which he is thrown out of the village. Fight ensues between two camps in the village. The film has displayed elements of the Malian society of patriarchy where woman are just slaves to be entrusted as the men like it.

There is undertone of comedy throughout the plot and the director has kept the narrative neat and tight. Bala Moussa Keita has acted quite well as the father of the bride. Others are okay but screen presence is not given enough to the ladies. IMDB 6/10

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Sinking Sands

What a beautiful heart warming award winning Ghanaian movie “Sinking Sands” (2010) directed by Leila Djansi and starring Ama Abebrese and Jimmy Jean-Louis among others.

Paby (Ama Abebrese) loses her foster mother in the first scene and Jimah (Jimmy Jean-Louis) comforts her and asks for her hand in marriage.

Paby is a school teacher destined for being a principal soon. Jimah works as a teller in a bank. Unfortunately very soon after their marriage, Jimah’s face becomes disfigured because of an accident when Paby drops a hot water vessel accidentally on the ground with Jimah nearby.

Jimah becomes violent and frustrated and takes it out on Paby by beating her and abusing her every day. Everybody tells Paby to leave Jimah because of his violent outbursts, but she stands by him and even drops the principal position to be with him. But his taunts and his depression does not lessen. In the meanwhile Paby learns that she is pregnant.

Beautiful movie that tells a lot without being too preachy about it. The soft toned narration gels very well with the soundtrack, camera work and lighting is quite exquisite capturing the various moods of Ama Abebrese quite beautifully. Ama for her part has acted quite magnificently in the movie, in fact the movie rests entirely on her shoulders. This performance by Ama is worthy of an Oscar award. IMDB 8/10

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Touki Bouki

Award winning Senegalese film “Touki Bouki” (1973) directed by Djibril Diop Mambety and starring Magaye Niang and Mareme Niang among others.

Touki Bouki is a story of dreams – dreams of having a better livelihood in a first world country and love for one’s country. Mory (Magaye Niang) goes around his village and town in a motorcycle fitted with a bull horn handle. Anta (Mareme Niang) is his girlfriend equally keen on leaving the hard life.

They try various schemes to make some quick money all illegal of course but could not succeed until Mory befriends a homo sexual and steals money and his clothes and his car. They make arrangements to leave for Paris in a cruise and go the port for that purpose. Anta boards the ship but at the last minute Mory is unable to climb aboard as he suddenly feels nostalgic towards his own country and the rural life of rearing cows and buffaloes etc.

Not much by way of a story there, and the narration is also not very linear. But the camera work and direction are all pretty good. Both Magaye Niang and Mareme Niang have done good roles. You get a glimpse of Senegalese culture in the film. Its also a kind of a subtle satire at the rich vs poor kind of life – rich meaning stinking ultra rich and poor meaning those who cannot afford even two square meals a day. IMDB 4/10

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Urugo Rwanje

Burundian movie “Urugo Rwanje” directed by P-Amedee Kanyamuneza and starring Kaze Ange Nicole, Manirakiza Innocent among others.

Its a simple story of a couple who get married in the beginning of the movie. The girl is told by her elders to always respect her husband. Cut to 5 years later, they are in Bujumbura, the lady is working in Payway Burundi and the man is unemployed though he is an engineer.

They have a kid and they get taunted because of his unemployment. The lady is offered incentive to leave the husband and come to another man, but she repels him. Ultimately he gives a test to apply for a job in Sokoni a construction company and gets selected.

The man rises quickly in his new company and soon buys a new car as a gift to his wife, but she is dismayed that the car has come before other projects which are important. He gets an important project to work with a client abroad.

Its a neat little story and plot is followed quite well. Overall feel of the movie is quite good. There are subtitles in English so its a good movie to watch.

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Brilliant award winning African historical fiction movie “Sarraounia” (1986) directed by Med Hondo and starring Al Keita, Jean-Roger Milo among others.

The plot is based on a true story of an African queen of the Aznas tribe in Niger/ Sahel region at the turn of the 19th century in 1899 when European nations had descended on Africa to divide it among themselves for the riches and plunder.

Sarraounia who was the queen of the Aznas tribe was fearless in battle, rousing her soldiers to fight against the much superior French forces. She trained her soldiers in archery using poison tipped arrows, spears, and guns. The other tribe leaders of that region were also against her because of her supposed witch powers and that she had defeated them in the past.

French had recruited black soldiers to fight for them and in the end they also revolted as also a small contingent of the French army who were against the methods of Captain Voulet (Jean-Roger Milo).

Pretty much a very neat story line which beautifully captures the essence of the angst and anguish of the soldiers in fighting a brutal war in which they are not winners. The French get their comeuppance at the end when all the tribesmen unite against them.

Sarraounia (Al Keita) fought a brave and tactical battle reminiscent of the guerilla warfare in much latter days of fight and retreat into the jungles to leave the opponent bewildered. French did get her palace and her riches but were never able to capture her or her inner army.

Beautiful music which reminds one of the western African music culture of Mali, Guinea, Senegal etc. The language is mostly in Diula, Fula and French although with sub titles it was easy to understand. The film was shot in Burkina Faso. IMDB 7/10

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Hijack Stories

A powerful South African movie “Hijack Stories” (2000) directed by Oliver Schmitz and starring Tony Kgoroge, Rapulana Seiphemo, Moshidi Motshegwa among others.

Sox Moraka (Tony Kgoroge) is a young black South African kid from the upper class white neighbouhood who wants to become an actor in the mould of Wesley Snipes. He fails the audition because he is not able to get the intensity required to play a mobster.

Desperate he goes to Soweto his previous home and tries to integrate with the people over there in order to gain acceptance and learn the ropes. Finally he is sent to meet Zama (Rapulana Seiphemo) who happens to be his boy hood friend but who is now bitter that Sox has left them, left Soweto to be with the white people.

Zama agrees to let him in and Sox goes along with them in their errands. Sox also falls for a girl from Soweto, Grace (Moshidi Motshegwa) while already having a white girlfriend back home.

The real fun starts when they go on a real hijack trip and steal 10 cars and park them in the police compound. In the meanwhile Sox keeps on giving his auditions and each time he keeps on improving and on the last one before the hijacking trip, he gets accepted at the auditions.

Real twist in the story at the end with police chase and shootings and killings. Tony doing his debut has acted well and so has Rapulana but it is Moshidi who steals the show. IMDB 6/10

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Geedka Nolosha

“Geedka Nolosha” or “Tree of Life” a brilliant Somalian short film directed by Abdulkadir Ahmed Said.

It shows a typical Somalian village with people going about their lives, women pounding the corn husks, gathering water from the river, children playing, cattle and fowl roaming about and a single nomad walking purposefully.

He goes deep into the forest and selects a good hardy tree to cut, obviously for the firewood for his village. He starts cutting, suddenly the birds and animals perk up, children look from their games, people stop to wonder what’s going on, the noise is reverberating throughout the village.

Then he finally brings the tree down, the animals scurry about fearfully, birds screech and fly up angrily into the air, people run about in fear, there is thunder and heavy rain follows.

Next shot is of the nomad in a desert – there is no vegetation, no forests, no plant life, no animals, no humans – its full of bleak and harsh desert. Interspersed are shots of heavy machinery cutting down huge trees with impunity.

Ending is the message, which is Tree of Life.

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Black Girl

French-Senegalese cult film “Black Girl” (1966) directed by the legendary Ousmane Sembene and starring Mbissine Therese Diop among others.

Diouana (Mbissine Therese Diop) is a young Senegalese girl looking for work to buttress their family income. She roams all over Dakar looking for work, knocking on people’s doors. In one such outing she meets a guy who tells her to sit on a corner where maids all sit looking for work.

A French madame Anne-Marie Jelinek comes along looking for a maid, Diouana is the only one who does not rush to her. Madame picks her to look after her three kids. After some time, the French couple move back to France and ask Diouana to come to France to work for her.

Excited Diouana plans for herself to visit places, see things in France to Cannes, Nice etc. But in France, Diouana is cloistered in her room asked to do the laundry, cooking, washing, dishes, sweeping etc. In short she has become a full time maid. And the children are nowhere to be seen.

Conflicts arise between Madame and Diouana and Diouana sees herself as a slave in their house, not allowed to go out, not allowed to wear good clothes or slippers. Sembene has delivered an absolute cult classic, slowly taking the movie forward to a tragic end.

The vestiges of colonialism of Senegal by France comes to the fore in the movie, and its like a statement on all colonialism by the white powers over the entire African continent, be it the British over East Africa, French over West Africa, Belgium in Central Africa, Portual in South West Africa. Africa and Africans is subtly portrayed as slaves by the white people to do what they want. Its as if the black people do not have their own emotions, their ambitions, their thoughts and their goals and aspirations.

Its a brilliant movie made in black and white with outstanding camera work and cinematography. The Senegalese music played in the background is mesmerising. IMDB 9/10

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King of Boys

Award winning Nigerian movie “King of Boys” (2018) directed by Kemi Adetiba and starring Sola Sobowale, Adesua Etomi and Paul Sambo among others.

Its a Nigerian crime fiction drawn on the style of Godfather and so many of crime thrillers but this has a godmother instead. Alhaja Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale) is controlling the crime and drugs in Lagos with separate factions under her. She has inherited from her husband as have others from their family members controlling drugs and kidnappings, theft, robbery etc.

But because of her overpowering dominance, it has ruffled feathers amongst many including the politicians, other gang lords etc. What travails she goes through and how she comes out on top with so many tragedies facing her forms the rest of the story.

Its a long movie, almost 3 hours, so gets slow in the middle. But Kemi has built up the story quite well with Paul Sambo doing the role of the honest cop Nurudeen Gobir. Adesua Etomi as Kemi Salami the daughter of Eniola oozes sexuality and arrogance in her role.

There are whole lot of vested interests involved and there are too many players spoiling the pie so to speak. Typical of what is happening in most countries with crime, drugs, politics mixing to form a heady mix of deadly cocktail of danger. Sola Sobowale has done a brilliant role as the Godmother, incidentally she is called as King in the movie.

You can watch the movie here.

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Terra Sonambula

What a beautiful movie “Terra Sonambula” (2007) directed by Teresa Prata and starring Nick Lauro Teresa, Aladino Jasse, Helio Fumo and Ilda Gonzalez among others.

Its a Mozambican movie told against the backdrop of the continuing civil war going on in the country. A young boy Muidinga/ Gasper is seen wearily trudging along with an older man Tuahir (Aladino Jasse) trying to reach safely somewhere. They come across a ramshackle bus which has been burnt and the passengers inside charred to death. They decide to stay inside the bus for the night.

There Muidinga finds a diary which tells a story. As he starts reading the story, we are shown the story that of a young woman longing to find her son. That narration is by Kindzu (Helio Fumo) who is embroiled in a piece of conflict in another village, losing his entire family. He escapes by boat rowing day and night when he hits a larger ship.

Inside the ship is a woman Farida (Ilda Gonzalez) who tells her story of her lost son. She had been done in by her white master and had a kid who was a mixed race. She longs for her son Gasper. Both stories run parallel to each other and intermingle in the end in the most breathtaking and sad manner.

Its a movie of much sadness, grief, tragedy, despondency, hopelessness and also of love, hope, faith triumphing all odds. Aladino Jasse has done a magnificent role as Tuahir the old man who takes Muidinga along and protects him like his own son. There is lot of pathos in the movie and the way Teresa Prata has meshed the story is beautiful. Its a beautifully moving story, very well made. IMDB 9/10

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Moroccan movie “Marock” (2006), directed by Laila Marrakchi and starring Morjana Alaoui and Matthieu Boujenah among others.

The movie deals with the controversial topic of romance between a Jewish boy and a Muslim girl in upper class Casablanca. There is a simmering tension in the air and these kids are rich college kids out to have some fun and love.

Rita (Morjana Alaoui) and Yourri (Matthieu Boujenah) are besotted with each other. Both their parents are rich with one family observing Ramadan. There is not much of a story line apart from the romance. The ending is tragic though with some hope for the future.

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“Yeelen”, a Malian movie, directed by Souleymanne Cisse and starring Issiaka Kane, Aoua Sangare among others.

Its a magical realism kinda movie, with both father and son pitted against each other. Father Soma is using the magical powers given to him for his selfish gains whereas son Nianankaro (Issiaka Kane) is fighting a losing battle but his mother gives him some relishes to protect him and prays fervently to protect her son.

While travelling to find his father, Nianankaro is caught by one village and about to be beheaded but he uses his magical powers, which impresses the king of the village. The king asks him to defend the village against the neighboring kingdom which he does with panache so the king asks him one last favor which is make his last wife Attou (Aoua Sangare) unbarren.

In the process he has sex with the girl and they confess to the king, but the king lets them go as man and wife. Nianankaro then travels long distance to find his uncle who is the twin brother of his father. Then he meets his father and the great fight takes place.

Very beautifully crafted story, great camera work and cinematography. Cisse has dwelt a lot of detail on the little known tribal customs and practices which gives the movie an authentic feel. It got a Cannes Jury prize in 1987.

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The Boy who harnessed the wind

What a beautifully made movie “The Boy who harnessed the Wind” a Malawian based movie on true story life of William Kamkwamba, a boy genius who harnesses the wind power to bring electricity to his village and power the village pump to deliver water to his farm and others in the village.

Directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor and he stars himself as the boy’s father in a grim story of a typical rural village at the mercy of the natural elements. In one year, they had flash floods which destroyed their harvest completely, then the drought comes which ravages the country side, leaving everybody hungry and dying.

It is then that William who is a young bright student chances upon an idea to use wind energy to power electricity. First he tries on a small model which succeeds but for a large scale project, he needs his father’s bicycle to rotate and power the windmill using battery powered gadget.

Chiwetel has woven in a nice story of a family struggle, the political corruption, the sadness, love, family togetherness and affection to carve out a beautiful movie and in which he has acted absolutely magnificently. The boy acted by Maxwell Simba has also done an equally superb role as his mother Aissa Maiga and sister Lily Banda.

This is much like Swadesh made long time ago in which Shahrukh Khan a scientist builds low cost electricity to power rural homes.

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True story of escape of six missionaries from Liberia into Sierra Leone after fighting breaks out in Liberia and rebels are out to kill all members of the Krahn tribes.

There are six christian missionaries and their driver Phillip Abubaker who are escaping from Monrovia to go to Freetown in Sierra Leone so that the missionaries can teach freely there which they are fearing to do in Liberia. The rebels are killing every member of the Krahn tribe and they have virtually taken over the country side having regular checkpoints at places.

How the seven of them cramped in an old car travel in such deadly circumstances bypassing the rebels through their wits and forced to pool all their savings to buy petrol and their freedom makes up for the rest of the movie.

The movie is shot well, though there are dull moments when the preaching takes place. The cinematography and camera work is outstanding. IMDB 3/10

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Nairobi Half Life

Kenyan award winning movie “Nairobi Half Life” (2012) directed by David “Tosh” Gitonga and starring Joseph Warimu and Nancy Wanjiku Karanja among others. 

Mwas (Joseph Warimu) is a young man making his life selling video movies and acting the part in order to sell them. He dreams of being an actor and gets half an opportunity when a theatre troupe comes to his village. 

On the way to Nairobi he is forced to do some chores by his cousin and gets promptly robbed the moment he enters into Nairobi. Forced into the streets he is arrested for a day and in jail meets a gang leader who provides him job. 

They do small odd jobs like stealing car parts. Mwas meanwhile gives an audition for a play at the National Theatre and lands the job. In stealing they graduate from stealing car parts to stealing cars themselves. 

The movie shows the dark underbelly of Nairobi crime life where crime is common, gangsters are hand in glove with the policemen, there is corruption, violence and brutality galore. Gitonga has deftly woven the plot nicely moving on two parallels – the crime life and the theatre life, the only common thread being Amina who is the girlfriend of one of the gangsters but who starts loving Mwas. 

Cinematography is quite breathtaking in the movie and both Joseph Warimu and Nancy Karanja have played their parts quite well. Its quite a realistic movie in that sense almost like Salaam Mumbai of Mira Nair. IMDB 7/10  

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