To showcase the excellence of African cinema, we have compiled a list of the top ten nations pushing the envelope when it comes to filmmaking.
In the last few years, Africa has exported several worthy talents overseas. Film industries across the continent have also gotten so far ahead our films now appear on big screens in European countries and are nominated for categories in the Oscars, and other reputable international film festivals across the globe.
To showcase the excellence of African cinema, we have compiled a list of the top ten nations pushing the envelope when it comes to filmmaking. The list consists of countries that have produced movies that have been very successful on big screens in the last decade, produced stars who are well known throughout Africa, made a couple million in the African box office, and surpassed local movie criteria.
With Africa slowly taking its place as one of the continents notable for producing thoughtful and excellent films, Namibia, a relatively small country with an estimated population of about 2.6 million people, is one of the countries in the continent strongly contributing to this feat. For the past decade, Namibian filmmakers have steadily and notably contributed to the growth of the industry at large, producing quality films and content year in year out. The majority of the films from Namibia are created and produced locally which adds to the economy of the country. One of the best Namibia movies made in the last few years are films like The White Line produced in 2019 and was accepted as Namibia’s entry into the 2022 Oscars Academy Awards. Currently, the film is running against heavyweight movies and blockbusters like The Addams Family 2, The Matrix Resurrection, Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, and The Harder They Fall for best picture.
Between the early 1970s and early 1980s, Mozambican cinema produced more than 500 films on 16mm and 35mm, mainly documentaries. With the training of hundreds of technicians, the cinema grew and created a unique post-colonial vision of Africa. However, the film industry in Mozambique experienced some setbacks towards the end of that decade, hindering their ability to produce more films and show them in cinemas.
The industry has now experienced a rebirth and is growing by the day. It enters the list of top ten because of its effort to keep pushing despite several setbacks. Recently, Netflix acquired its first Mozambican film titled Redemption. Redemption, also referred to as Resgate, had a commercial cinematic release in Mozambique, Angola, and Portugal in 2019. It was also shown at festivals in Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe.
In the same year, the film won the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA Awards) for Best Screenplay and Best Production Design. The awards are held annually in Nigeria and are the most prestigious in the world for African cinema. It was also awarded the Courageous Film Award at the Film Fest Zell in Austria.
Terra Sonâmbula, another Mozambican story, and one that’s considered one of the greatest films from the scenic country, has also contributed to changing the narrative of filmmaking and storytelling in the continent.
Egyptian cinema has evolved in different ways since the 1990s. Internationally, smaller art films receive some attention, but domestically they are not paid much attention. The battle to retain an audience attracted either to Western films or wary of the perceived morality of the medium kept filmmakers tweaking and changing. Some filmmakers however managed to bridge this gap, delivering films with high artistic quality and mass appeal: Sahar el Layali (Sleepless Nights) in 2003 and Imarat Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building) in 2006 are two such examples.
In 2006, the film Awkat Faragh (Leisure Time) was released. A social commentary on the decline of Egyptian youth, the film was produced on a low budget and had attendant low production values. The film, later on, became a success. Its controversial subject matter: the sexual undertones in today's society, was seen as confirmation that the industry was beginning to take risks.
2007 saw a considerable spike in the number of Egyptian films made. In 1997, the number of Egyptian feature-length films created was 16; 10 years later, that number had risen to 40. Box office records have also risen significantly, as Egyptian films earned around $50 million while American films, by comparison, earned $10 million.
The Tanzanian film industry also referred to as Swahiliwood or Bogo films was established around 2001. They were a bit of a latecomer into the game. The industry started to produce its first films with low budgets and with short schedules and camcorders and they were mostly referred to as Bongo films. However, by 2011, these movies were produced on a more regular basis with few in higher quality. With time, some movies with high quality began to feature in Cinemas. The industry has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception and Netflix, the popular streamer, acquired its first Tanzanian film Binti, a compelling drama that explores womanhood in Tanzania.
With other industries churning out content consistently in the last few years, the Ghanian film industry, widely known as Ghollywood, seems to have dropped the ball in recent years. Regardless of the various setbacks the industry has endured, it has still managed to put out some beautiful and successful films like Picture Perfect, Azali, Single, Married, and Complicated in recent years.
The Cameroonian industry, sometimes known as Collywood, has recently grown enormously, compared to the 1980s and 1990s. Films made locally have greatly evolved in terms of production value and upscaled to digital platforms like Amazon and Netflix, notably for anglophone productions, making them more available and competitive than ever before. With recent movie projects like the Fisherman’s Diary which was the country’s official to the Oscars in 2021, A Man for the Weekend by Sydney Emade featuring Alexx Ekubo, Therapy, and a host of others, The Cameroon film industry is fast becoming a force t reckon with their style of narrative which is mostly drama.
The Ugandan film industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in Africa. The industry, commonly known as Ugawood, or sometimes referred to as Kinauganda by the locals has been taunted by many to be the next big industry in Africa. With a knack for telling compelling African stories, the industry has seen such growth since the production of Feelings Struggle, a drama that has been credited to being the first Ugawood movie.
Although things go a little bit different in Uganda from the likes of Ghana, South Africa, or Nigeria. Viewers go to video halls to watch new movies where they will meet a narrator called Video Joker. These video jokers translate the dialogue and add their commentary. Some also go to Video clubs to rent DVDs or watch films on prime-time.
Who killed Captain Alex?, an Ugandan action flick released about 12 years ago is considered one of the most important African films of the 21st century. Dramas like Queen of Katwe, The Girl in the Yellow Jumper, Bed Of Thorns have followed in its footsteps, placing the Ugandan industry as one of the most exciting in Africa.
The film industry in Kenya is relatively small compared to some African industries but it has steadily grown since its first movie installations. The first movie produced in Kenya that broke the movie bounds in Africa was Men Against the Sun which was filmed in 1952. The movie industry is certainly growing and walking into the future of filmmaking with the likes of Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Tanzania.
One of Kenya's greatest movies is Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki, a moving drama that tells the captivating tale of two young women in love. Rafiki was a crossover hit, hitting every country in Africa and some western states. The movie portrayed Africa in a different light, one that made people see the beauty in Africa and not the poor impoverished misconceptions that many people hold. Although the movie hit a bit of a drag when it was shut down for promoting lesbianism, the director later sued the government and won.
2. South Africa
South Africa is no doubt producing some of the best movies in Africa and in the world. In fact, the industry is one of the most cinematically prolific countries, producing breathtaking Sci-fi and other great movies that tell the African story in a unique way. The innovative use of technology in South African films brings them to the top of the list. They just might take over the African movie industry soon.
In the last few years, the industry has improved on its storytelling approach and narrative by producing some of the finest films out of the continent: Queen Sono, King of Jo’burg, Amandla, The Letter Reader, How to Ruin Christmas, and a host of others. The industry continually seeks advancement with its approach and standard making them a force to reckon with on the continent.
The Nigerian movie industry is undoubtedly the biggest movie industry in Africa and it's also among the top movie industries in the world. With great storytelling and an abundant supply of movies, Nollywood, as it's commonly known, has shown no signs of stopping since early releases like Living in Bondage, Saworoide and Agogo Eewo paved the way.
Since its inception, Nollywood has employed several new technologies to grow its cinematic view and improve its storytelling. Directors and filmmakers like Tunde Kelani, Kemi Adetiba, Jade Osiberu Kunle Afolayan, and a host of others are changing the narrative of the industry and also giving opportunities to young filmmakers to explore the space and tell amazing stories that are well recognized in different parts of the world. Although Nollywood is mostly divided into Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa, the country’s three major tribes, new releases like King of Boys, Oloture, Juju Stories, For Maria are starting to bridge the gap, casting actors from all tribes to perform in these brilliant films.