Here at Bside, we have curated a list of trailblazing filmmakers currently projecting brilliant African stories in the global market.
The African film industry has grown rapidly over the past few years, with great stories being created, filmed, directed, starred, and written by people from around the continent. A vast number of films made on the African continent have undergone major changes in terms of production value and storytelling structure since the colonial era.
Before now, African stories were told from the perspective of western filmmakers who stereotyped the continent and portrayed it in a negative light. Our stories were told through the lens of poverty, famine, and foreign aid. Now, creators are beginning to create the right representation of Africa by creating a unique and more genuine perspective to stories they are telling. They explore topics that are true to the African culture and heritage and their creative expertise is helping to project African films on a global stage.
Here at Bside, we identify with the amazing work these filmmakers put into creating content that is currently shaping the structure of storytelling across the continent, and in no particular order, we have curated a list of trailblazing filmmakers currently projecting brilliant African stories in the global market.
Nosipho Dumisa (South Africa)
South African writer, director and producer Nosipho Dumisa is one of the top trailing South African filmmakers currently changing the game with her unique style of storytelling. Mostly recognized as a director, she co-founded the production company Gambit Films. As a director, she wrote and directed her first feature film, the crime thriller Nommer 37, first as a short in 2014 followed by a feature version in 2018. Nommer 37 was praised by many reviews for being one of South Africans excellent releases in recent years.
The award-winning filmmaker is currently riding the success train with Blood and Water, a series she has written and directed for Netflix about a young teenage girl Puleng who uncovers a dark family secret. The successful Netflix series explores the scourge of human trafficking. It has turned into an international streaming hit as it ranked number one not only in South Africa but several other countries including France, Nigeria, Kenya, and the U.S.
Loukman Ali (Uganda)
Multifaceted Ugandan filmmaker Loukman Ali is currently taking Ugandan stories to the world one movie at a time. Ali has always known he wanted to be a filmmaker, taking strides to pursue his dreams from a very young age. He began to learn and find his own space within the Ugandan film industry by being meticulous in his work from writing the scripts to building the sets, directing, editing, and color grading. His directorial debut titled Monday was followed up quickly by another film titled The Bad Mexican which was released in 2017. The film was nominated in various festivals including the prestigious Ugandan festival Amakula International film festival.
His latest project The Girl in a Yellow Jumper is the first Ugandan film to be acquired by Netflix. The Ugandan film industry is relatively young and faced with challenges but Loukman Ali is not deterred by these challenges and the talented 31-year-old has continuously told moving and brilliant stories, taking African cinema to the global stage with the resources that he has at his disposal.
Kemi Adetiba (Nigeria)
Nigerian filmmaker Kemi Adetiba whose works have appeared on Channel O, MTV Base, Soundcity TV, BET, and Netflix is one of the film directors currently carrying the torch for the New Nollywood. Kemi started professionally as a radio presenter with Rhythm 93.7 FM where she became the voice behind two nationally syndicated hit shows: Soul’d Out and Sunday at the Seaside.
After years of success being in front of the camera as the host of popular TV shows: Maltina Dance Hall, Sound City TV, Adetiba enrolled into the New York Film Academy to learn the ropes about being behind the cameras, and today, her work as a director is spread across the African continent and beyond its borders.
In 2016, Kemi Adetiba's first feature film The Wedding Party (a Nigerian Rom-com) premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), as the opening film of the City-to-City Spotlight. After the success of The Wedding party, Kemi Adetiba went on to make King of Boys in 2018, a film that changed the storytelling game in the new Nollywood cinema. Following the success of King of Boys 1, Netflix acquired King of Boys 2 as the first Netflix series from Nigeria.
Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya)
In Kenya, filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu has raised the bar. Her 2018 drama Rafiki, was the first Kenyan film to be screened at the renowned Cannes Film Festival. Rafiki which means "friend" in Swahili is a coming-of-age love story about two young women who meet and fall in love. However, to Kahiu's frustration, it was banned in Kenya by the country's censor board for allegedly promoting homosexual content but that didn't stop the film from achieving widespread acclaim. Kahiu is considered to be “one of Africa's most aspiring directors, being part of a new, vibrant crop of talents representing contemporary African culture”. She has received several awards and nominations for the films which she directed, including the awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Picture at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009 for her dramatic feature film From a Whisper. She is also the co-founder of AFROBUBBLEGUM, a media collective dedicated to supporting African art.
Seko Shamte (Tanzania)
After finishing her BSC in finance with a minor in media at Marymount College Manhattan College she went to work at East Africa Television as the Head of Programming. During her time at the television station she saw the creation and televising of the popular television programs Ze Comedy, Friday Night Live, 5 Live! and Nirvana.
Following this, Seko Shamte decided to start her own production company, Alkemist Media in 2008, producing programs and films about Tanzania and Africa for international distribution. Starting with features on CNN's Inside Africa, including a story on Hashim Thabeet, Tanzania's NBA basketball player and his contribution to his community in Tanzanian. This was followed by a series of other pieces for CNN, ABC networks in the United States, and BBC in the UK.
In 2015, her feature film Home Coming was released in Dar es Salaam. The story is an examination of corruption and how it perpetuates itself, generation after generation. Home Coming was well received by the Tanzanian Film Industry and it went on to be selected to play at the Pan African Film Festival in 2017.
Shamte is currently working to put Tanzanian cinema on the map. Her latest film Binti is currently the first Tanzanian film to be acquired by Netflix and the film has recently been streaming to several positive reviews across the globe.
Kunle Afolayan exemplifies the trend that we now know in Nigeria to be the new Nollywood. His restless experimentation as a leading director and producer over the years reveals the current structure of opportunities, and his pivotal role as a filmmaker informs his films both culturally and thematically. There are practical limits to the current possibilities of New Nollywood and Kunle Afolayan has been at the forefront of this as he has been creating content and collaborating with film industries across the globe to take Nollywood stories across the globe. His latest film A Naija Christmas, a Netflix original was met with positive reviews across the globe.
His latest projects have helped to transform the Nigerian film industry on a global scale.
Even though he has not claimed perfection concerning his work, Kunle Afolayan is certain that his achievements around the world serve as a motivation for young filmmakers in Nigeria and Africa at large to approach their audiences with genuine efforts of telling African stories that are unique and authentic.
Chuko and Ari Esiri (Nigeria)
The cross-continent careers of twin brothers and Nigerian filmmakers Arie and Chuko Esiri have taken them from New York, where they were both awarded Masters in Fine Arts, to Paris and London, where Arie worked as a photographer, to Lagos, where Chuko produced Julius Onah’s ‘Big Man’ and where the brothers shot their debut feature film Eyimofe. Eyimofe, exclusively written, produced and directed by the brothers, is made of two chapters called Spain and Italy. The art-house film opened to extremely positive reviews from critics and was screened at various global international film festivals in 17 countries. After gaining enough experience overseas, Chuko and Ari moved back to Nigeria to tell stories that reflect the true realities of Nigeria. The brothers have both opened the door to a new form of narrative in Nollywood inspiring young filmmakers to explore new genres of filmmaking.
Mo Abudu, an entrepreneur with a predilection for television, launched EbonyLife TV, Africa's first global black entertainment and lifestyle network, in 2013. Her primary goal for the channel was to create a more positive narrative around Africa. In her quest to change global perceptions about Africa, Abudu started her career as a filmmaker with the creation of EbonyLife Films in 2014. She executive produced Fifty in 2016, Abudu co-executive produced The Wedding Party directed by Kemi Adetiba. The Wedding Party premiered at The Toronto International Film Festival in 2016 and became the highest-grossing title of all time at the Nigerian box office.
These projects have helped to set the tone for Nollywood in terms of collaboration and content creation and also open the doors for filmmakers to get more exposure for their content. In less than a decade, Ebonylife Studios has produced some of the best content on the continent that has been exported to a larger audience, establishing Mo Abudu as a major driving force in Nollywood.