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African Documentaries You HAVE To See

One of the reasons why the book, ‘Things Fall Apart’ written by the late great author Chinua Achebe, continues to receive warm reviews, some five decades after its first release, is because it showed Africa in a different light (you can add positively to boot). Before now, documentaries and feature stories about Africa were mostly written entirely by foreigners, who dwelt on the negativities/challenges bedeviling the continent (even if they did so unwittingly).

In fact, the general consensus is that Chinua Achebe authored the book in direct response to another novel, ‘The Dark Continent’ written by Joseph Conrad. (Yeah, thank me later for the history lesson).

Nowadays, by the sheer forces of technology and increasing awareness, documentaries about Africa; whether shot by Africans or not, in Africa or elsewhere give viewers a balanced view of issues. Be it a film on civil war or some other ancient cultural practice.

These are the documentaries that you have to see for yourself:

Beyond The Unicorn

If you looking to get inspired to get the dust off your dream (possibly stacked somewhere in the shelf of your mind) and you are African (or any other nationality), then look to the compelling documentary, Beyond the Unicorn, to fuel your fires.

This documentary highlights what drives the various nationalities in Africa and elsewhere to the famed Silicon Valley, CA USA, the place where impossibility does not exist in the lexicon of the starry-eyed men and women that inhabit this technology city.

Giving life and form to abstracts existing in the unseen, these individuals are using technology as a potent tool in providing solutions to the ever-changing needs/wants/demands of modern humanity. And you know what? They are getting pretty rich doing so! One of the abiding themes of the documentary, as portrayed by the cast, is that ‘You can’t build a Billion dollar company without first solving a billion dollar problem!’

So if you have your fancies tickled, head over to Demand Africa and tune in to Beyond the Unicorn today, and thank me later.

God Grew Tired Of Us

War is never okay for whatever reasons and when it does happen in Africa, you can expect monumental consequences and widespread backlash! ‘God grew tired of us’ is a poignant reminder that resorting to guns and bombs never brings any solutions. The documentary centers on the tragic civil wars that ravaged Sudan, leading to the displacement of millions of her citizens across Africa and beyond. The story shines the light on three young men who leave behind friends, family and the chaos to seek a new lease on life in the United States of America.

Filmmaker and movie critic, Christopher Quinn, spent half a decade chronicling the challenges, frustrations, and opportunities that Jon Bul Dau, Daniel Abu Pach, and Panther Bior confronted while on passage to a land of new cultures and new beginnings.

I would suggest you have rolls of tissue paper close by, as this rendition might pull the waterworks from your eyes.

The Square

If political activism runs in your blood and you have a thing for popular mass uprisings, then The Square should feature at the top of your To-watch list of documentaries. However, a note of warning! This documentary is not for the squeamish, as it captures the struggles and defiance of the peoples of one of the oldest civilizations in the world, Egypt.

Armed with only a camera, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim follows six characters who play varying roles in the Egyptian uprisings of 2011 that eventually led to the ouster of the long-time ruler, Hosni Mubarak. In between, you will get to see scenes of torture and police brutality, as well as the strength of resolve of a populace, pushed to the wall.

While the filming ended with the overthrow of Mubarak, it began shooting again when Morsi, elected afterward in 2011, stepped aside when the Egyptian people marched again for a better society!

Need I say more? Go watch this documentary that picked up a number of awards including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming, (MORE).

When We Were Kings

If you are a good student of history (even if you were not born in that period), then you must have heard of the charismatic, yet talented boxing great, Muhammad Ali and one of his favorite punch lines: “Move like a butterfly, Sting like a bee!”

Rings a bell? Well if it doesn’t, do well to watch the stirring documentary ‘When we were Kings’, shot in 1996 and chronicling the sell-out fight between Ali and one of his great adversaries, George Foreman. The fight took place in Zaire, now the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa.

Watch the intrigues as the celebrated boxing promoter, Don King, doled out the big buck ( each fighter received 5 million USD, at that time considered a princely sum)while encouraged by the imperial Zairian King, Mobutu Sese Seko, who had only erected a brand new stadium to host the fight.

The documentary utilizes stunning archival footage to follow the pompous, popular Ali through damaged post-colonial Zaire to the “Black Woodstock” musical event in the capital of Kinshasa before zooming into the ultimate fight.

Ghosts of Rwanda

The rest of Africa and indeed the world stood by and did almost nothing as a people were decimated in the hundreds of thousands over 100 days. The Ghosts of Rwanda is a documentary that sends the chills down the spine as you witness more than 800,000 Tutsi citizens get slaughtered by Hutu extremists, while U.N. forces were ordered to hold back (did I hear a resounding  “Really?”). Yes, and more, as brothers turned on brothers and women, children were victims of political games and ego trips.

Hailed as profoundly in-depth and graphic, the Ghosts of Rwanda describes the immediate and remote events surrounding what started as a “simple” peacekeeping mission between the two different tribes quickly become a bloody, horrific massacre, which the United Nations found itself helpless to stop.

Don’t take our word for it, go watch this film and shed a tear or two for brothers and sisters lost to the carnage of 1994.