Tag Archives: African cinema

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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Mortu Nega

“Mortu Nega” an award winning film on Guinea-Bissau by Flora Gomes. 

War is going on against the Portugese and it is a war for independence from the colonialists so the nationalism is sky high. Diminga (Bia Gomes) wants to go to the frontier because her husband Sako (Tune Eugenio Almada) is fighting there. 

She reunites with her husband, but he ends up injured in the war. Diminga comes back to her village where she is welcomed back whole heartedly. Meanwhile Sako also comes back, but his injury has not gone yet. 

Just when independence is got, drought hits them and they all suffer because of that. There is a tribal village cultural dance and song which i think is to propitiate the rain gods. The rains do come in the end, which is the final shot of the movie, which the children dancing in the rain.

Bia Gomes has done a splendid role as Diminga. There is lot of pathos in the movie in the form of an untold grief, human tragedy with the war taking lives of innocent people, the tough, hard life of people, the sadness of people living with bare little essentials to go by, lack of education and all. IMDB 7/10  

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Waiting for Happiness

“Waiting for Happiness” a 2002 Mauritanian movie directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. The movie has no linear story structure, its a series of shots all ultimately forming some kind of story. There is a student Abdallah (Mohamad Mahmood Ould Mohamed) who has returned from abroad on a holiday perhaps but he is most of time inside his house, not going out, very introverted, not speaking to people, not wearing the traditional dress and not knowing the Hassanya language.

Then there is a father son duo of Maata (Maata Ould Mohamed Abeid) and his son Khatra (Khatra Ould Abder Kader), on whom lot of time in the movie is spent. Maata is an electrician and Khatra is learning the ropes from him. Then there is a mother daughter duo where the mother is playing a string instrument and teaching music to the daughter. The music and singing are both very good.

Abdallah is interested in a local girl who had a kid from somebody and the kid died, but he is unable to form words to speak to the girl. The movie meanders slowly in the harsh desert landscape of the country, not much happening on a daily basis. The film is shot near a coast so there are ample shots of the ocean, perhaps the Atlantic Ocean because Mauritania is on the west coast of Africa. There is also a shot of a train passing through the desert and people scrambling to board the train through the windows.

The direction is quite tight knit despite the lack of a story and so is the camera work and cinematography. The kid Khatra is the star of the film though Maata and Abdallah have also done useful roles. Its a movie without a beginning and without an end.

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Moolaade (2004) what a movie of exceptional brilliance by Senegalese writer director Ousmane Sembene. The movie derides the dastardly practice of female genital mutilation practiced in many parts of Africa and builds a beautiful story around it. Moolade means “magical protection” and Colie, the second wife of her husband gives protection to four small kids who come running to her crying about the impending purification. Colie’s daughter Amasatou also did not undergo the forced circumcision seven years previously. The elders of the village including the menfolk gang up against Colie and threaten her with dire consequences. The first wife also comes around to her point of view. Colie’s husband meanwhile returns from his trading trip and on being accosted with the news goes against Colie and whips her in front of the villagers. The radios which the women listen to during their household chores and in the night are confiscated from everybody and put in a junk in the center of the village to be burnt, because the elders feel that radios are corrupting the women of the village by giving them bold ideas. In the meanwhile, Ibrahim who is the son of the village headman returns from Paris laden with goods but is still hesitant to go against his elders despite his foreign upbringing. Ultimately it all ends in a beautiful climax when the entire women of the village go up together and end the brutal practice of female genital mutilation. A powerful movie of much depth, anguish, tragedy, emotions and understanding. An evil practice is beautifully sought to be abolished through a strong story line, solid acting by all the cast members, superb camera work, cinematography, music (by Boncana Naiga). Very difficult to single out any single actor for their performances but Fatomouta Coulibaly as Colie has done a bravura performance. The first wife has also acted very well. The movie is a co-production between Senegal, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia along with France. It has won a clutch of awards including at Cannes, Marrakech among others.

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Cairo Station

An Egyptian psycho thriller “Cairo Station” (1958) directed by Youssef Chahine, has the distinct stamp of Alfred Hitchcock in it. Qinawi (Youssef Chahine himself) is a lame newspaper vendor in the sprawling Cairo station terminus. Hannuma (Hind Rostom) is a hawker plying her soft drinks inside the trains. Qinawi has eyes on Hannuma and is smitten by her. Unknown to anybody he has put up posters of scantily clad women in his small quarters somewhere in the railway yard. Hannuma likes another porter in the railway station Abu Siri (Farid Shawqi) who is trying to organise a union of porters and hawkers in order to improve their lives. When Hannuma rejects him, Qinawi goes crazy. There is an unsolved murder in the newspapers, so Qinawi uses the method used in that killing to do his job. The ending has lot of shades of Hitchcock in it, cats, long shadows, the Hitchcockian music, close up shots, use of lighting etc. Superb acting by Youssef Chahine as the sick psycopath lame Qinawi. Hind Rostom has done a good role as the playful Hannuma quite well. This is a black and white film made in the neorealist style that was prevalent at that time. Chahine was a highly recognised film maker in Egypt and worldwide and so was Hind Rostom in Egyptian cinema.

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Viva Riva!

A slick Congolese (Democratic Republic of Congo, erstwhile Zaire) crime thriller (2010) directed by Djo Tunda Wa Munga. In a gasoline short country, Riva (Patsha Bay) smuggles gasoline into Kinshasha, a truck fuel of drums filled with gasoline, enough to make him and his friend rich. But after him are some Angolan ganglords to whom the fuel ostensibly belongs. Riva falls for Nora (Manie Malone) who is the keep of another small time gangster so there is a triumvirate fighting with each with one corrupt military officer (Marlene Longage) involved in fixing up deals of this sort. A lot of shoot outs, killings, money changing hands, sex with whores, sex with Nora it ends in a huge finale. Even the priest of a local church is involved in some corruption. Angolans apparently don’t like the Congolese so the Angolan taunts his Congolese rivals. Riva has a fallout with his parents as well. Patsha Bay and Manie Malone have done good acting and so has the Commandant, Marlene Longage. The dialogues are in a mix of Lingala and French, but thankfully there are English sub titles so that’s good. The direction is good and so is the production values and cinematography especially when there is not much scenery shooting in the movie. Its got a clutch of awards at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.

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