Film Club: January's Picks

A monthly roundup of the best of African cinema.


January has very much been a mixed bag for African cinema. In what can be described as the dump month for theatres, films released either in theatres or on streaming platforms are chucked in at the deep end and are watched with a “plunge or swim” attitude. Nevertheless, some films released this month have risen above that reputation to become hit movies or even classics.


Bside has carefully curated a list of some of the best film projects released this month for your viewing pleasure as well as some old but goldie African films you probably have been sleeping on for months.


The Girl in the Yellow Jumper


This Ugandan mystery-thriller directed by Loukman Ali follows the bizarre experiences of a hitchhiker Jim (Michael Wawuyo Jr), given a ride by a police officer Patrick (Maurice Kirya). Jim was kidnapped in his home while watching tv. He manages to escape from the kidnappers and he recounts his experiences to the officer on the long ride from the deserted road back to the city.


While the plot is riddled with holes, especially ones that make you either conclude that Patrick is a downright terrible cop or the plot needed him to turn a blind eye to overwhelming evidence to progress with the story or create some form of suspense. This feature film is Uganda’s very first on Netflix and regardless of its flaws, it shows that there is a new wave of storytelling ready to shape the future of African cinema.


WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX



BINTI


The Tanzanian feature film Binti directed by Seko Shamte explores how four interconnected women navigate social pressures along with the concept of what it means to be a family in an East African community. Binti presents an overarching message of equality. The story simply holds an uncomfortable mirror up to society’s deepest flaws and prejudices. With this project, It was evident that the director intended to break the barrier between the characters and the audience by making the actors relatable while highlighting motherhood as a shared responsibility.


WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX


Amandla


Amandla is a 2022 Netflix original written and directed by Nerina De Jager. The crime-thriller follows the story of two brothers: Impi (Lemogang Tsipa) and Nkosana Khumalo (Thabo Rametsi) whose fates are bound by blood, even when they are separated by circumstance. Growing up during the era of white minority rule in South Africa, we see young Impi and Nkosana dream of a better life and plans to elevate their family from poverty by moving to Kwazulu to meet with their uncle who can help them but the enforced racial discrimination against non-Whites in South Africa leads to the murder of their parents, forcing the brothers to fight for their survival as they grow in the slums of Isando.


WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX


For Maria Ebun Pataki


This heartfelt Nigerian drama is a great reminder that people around the globe are making films on vital, and even difficult topics out of a need to connect and a need to create. For Maria Ebun Pataki is a film directed by Damilola Orimogunje about postpartum depression, anxiety and the consequences of traumatic births. Considering how rarely these topics are discussed, and how seldom they are displayed as blatantly as they are in this film, it's hard not to be appreciative of its existence alone.


WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX


The Letter Reader


The Letter Reader is a short film that tells an insightful coming-of-age story. It highlights the power of the pen and the written word through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy, Siyabonga. The 30-minute film which was released in late 2018 follows a young Johannesburg boy called Siyabonga (Bahle Mashinini), who relocates to a village in KwaZulu-Natal to live with his grandmother while his parents work through their marital problems. Siyabonga, because of his reading abilities, assumes his late grandfather’s role of being the letter reader in the community. With literacy as his superpower, Siyabonga begins to connect fellow villagers to their loved ones who have settled in various parts of the country, one letter at a time.


WHERE TO WATCH: SHOWMAX/ NETFLIX


Just In Time


Just in Time is a Kenyan family drama directed by “Plan B” director Dolapo Adeleke popularly known as Lowladee. The plot of this project is quite simple. The lead character, Muthoni is left to cater for her niece Ashely after her cousin gets a divorce and needs time to think things through. Muthoni is not at all happy to have the little girl with her, but she starts to warm up to her as time progresses. They also share a surprisingly good bond with their neighbour’s friend Kobena. However, Muthoni’s seemingly perfect life is about to fall to pieces.


WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX






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