Featuring a big blockbuster starring Nollywood stars, an epic Yoruba film, and an internationally acclaimed film changing the style of narrative storytelling in Africa.
We’re halfway into the year and our beloved African cinema has already recorded some notable and laudable feats on global platforms from not-so-recent movies to the most recent ones like the tense and action-packed “Blood Sisters” to South Africa’s drama series “Savage Beauty”.
Although, It’s not been your standard or common-or-garden year at the movies so far. The slate of big new movies remains a little skinnier (okay, maybe just slightly skinnier) than usual and release dates have continued to shift away from the cinema to modern alternatives. Despite the lingering impact of Covid in the past year, African cinema has successfully enjoyed a crowd-pleasing and occasionally electrifying six months so far. From Award-winning picks like For Maria; Ebun Pataki to the aforementioned Netflix-exclusive Blood Sisters, African cinema is definitely experiencing a dynamic shift.
And to document this growth, we’ve been compiling and periodically adding to our list of the Best Movies of 2022 (So Far) since January. n this list, we’ve come up with five movies and shows that we here at Bside believe are worth checking out and will still be a creative reference conversation six months down the road when year-end Best Movies lists are trotted out.
As you’ll see, our countdown’s most recent entries include a big blockbuster starring Nollywood stars, an epic Yoruba film, and an internationally acclaimed film changing the style of narrative storytelling in Africa.
Rated hundred per cent on Rotten tomatoes, Savage Beauty follows the story of Zinhle (played by Rosemary Zimu), who is determined to bring down the Bhengu family who runs a powerful, global beauty empire. The powerful family maintains significant wealth but also holds dark secrets. Don and Grace Bhengu (the patriarch and matriarch of the family) once used to test their toxic beauty products on street children. Zinhle is one of the survivors, and what follows is an intriguing revenge drama — one that is hard to put down.
This story which involves corporate manslaughter makes sure to grip audiences from the start. It manages to retain and balance a gripping intensity, romance, and desire entwined with revenge. Throughout the six chapters, the South African series avoids unnecessary roundabout plot points and keeps its twists plausible and plausible.
The creator, Lebogang Mogashoa, should be proud of creating such an enticing drama that highlights the byproduct of mammoth companies. We often enjoy the mass creation of products by popular brands, but we become morally stuck when considering who has suffered to get the products onto the market. Zinhle represents the forgotten ones to fill the pockets of a few.
Co-directed by popular producer and director Adebayo Tijani and Tope Adebayo, Ageshinkole (King of Thieves) is an epic story about an invincible bandit named Ageshinkole who, constantly driven by revenge, terrorizes a fictional kingdom called Ajeromi. The epic begins with a pretty cliched opening and concludes with a narrator (Segun Arinze) who acts throughout the entire film as a guide. If you manage to get past the first scene, which is slightly flimsy, you’ll be in for a brilliant movie that combines a sense of drama, thrill, and excitement that lasts up until the penultimate scene.
Despite the story's similarities to previously made Yoruba epics, there is still something quite different about Ageshinkole. It pays great attention to detail and thorough research was done, something that’s evident from the production design, and costumes down to the usage of dialect. The film was a box-office hit in the first quarter of the year and has set a high bar for language films in Nollywood just like Ayinla did after it was released a year ago.
EbonyLife’s original series Blood Sisters presented an opportunity for redemption for both EbonyLife and Netflix after the catastrophe that was Chief Daddy 2 which was released on the streaming platform earlier in the year. Directed by Biyi Bandele (Half of a Yellow Sun, Fifty) and Kenneth Gyang (Òlòtūré, Confusion Na Wa) Blood Sisters is a groundbreaking show for Nollywood, currently sitting on the global top ten of most-watched Netflix films around the world. While the action-packed show might not be the best crime thriller out there in Nollywood, it sure has a lot going for it.
Led by a star-studded cast, Ini Dima-Okojie, and Nancy Isime star as Sarah and Kemi respectively, best friends who find themselves trying to get away with murder after one of them kills Sarah’s abusive fiancé, Kola Ademola (Deyemi Okanlawon), on the day of her traditional marriage. Set in various parts of Lagos, from the upper-class environs of Lekki to the slums of Makoko, the four-part limited series follows the friends’ attempts to escape being caught, both by the police and by the wealthy and influential Ademola family that Sarah almost married into.
Blood sisters is a breath of fresh year and for that alone, it deserves to be on this list.
For Maria; Ebun Pataki
For Maria Ebun Pataki is a story about a mother, Derin (Meg Otanwa), suffering from postpartum depression. The film follows her in the first few months after the delivery, a process that made Derin lose a lot of blood along with her womb. The film perfectly captures the disconnect she feels from her baby, along with the struggles that come with being in her state.
In this gripping drama, first-time feature director Damilola Orimogunje chooses to explore postpartum depression, a condition not given nearly enough attention in cinema both at home and abroad. And as depicted through the mother-in-law (Tina Mba), postpartum depression is not even a condition many people believe exists or are willing to accommodate.
Orimogunje manages to educate his viewers and also make them witness a different reality. The audience is not supposed to feel Derin’s pain. With a Kubrickian coldness, we are held at arm’s length, called to observe from a distance. What we are promised is not a deep character study but an exploration of a condition. The truth is many viewers might have never experienced postpartum depression (and I imagine those who have are not interested in reliving it) and the movie is not exactly interested in putting us in the driver’s seat either; it is more informative than immersive.
Silverton Siege is based on true events. In 1980 some freedom fighters took 25 hostages at a Pretorian bank and demanded the release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela from federal prison. Here, that demand becomes the fictional Khumalo’s outsized bargaining chip, as his efforts to otherwise engineer a safe exit are stymied and he offers the lives of his hostages for the freedom of his leader. Khumalo’s demand also sets off the usual round of hostage negotiation movie cliches: tense phone calls with police officer Langerman regarding helicopters to escape.
Despite its Apartheid-era setting and fact-based premise – it was three men who overtook the Silverton bank and demanded the release of Mandela, which in turn helped spark the larger movement to secure his release. The film establishes its early 1980s African setting with era-specific costumes, equipment, and vehicles for the police surrounding the bank, and reduces the action to frenetic black-and-white stills whenever the standoff spills onto the steps. A pitched gun battle inside a public arcade is also sharply paced and edited leading up to the eventual siege. Period music from Fela Kuti, Sello “Chicco” Twala, and Johnny Clegg & Juluka nicely round out the evocative backgrounds.