10 awesome African films to stream on Showmax this Africa Day

Noughts + Crosses Showmax
Noughts + Crosses on Showmax. Image credit: Showmax

Africa Day is around the corner and for streaming enthusiasts, there are plenty of African shows and films to binge on Showmax on this historic day.

Africa Day – marked on 25 May every year – commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), precursor to the African Union (AU).

In this article, we list several films from the continent available for streaming on Showmax.

1. Noughts + Crosses S1

Noughts + Crosses, which was named one of “the 10 best British TV shows of 2020” by Mashable, features South African Masali Baduza (Trackers) and BAFTA winner Jack Rowan (Born To Kill, Peaky Blinders).

The two play Sephy and Callum, two star-crossed lovers in the tradition of Romeo and Juliet, in an alternate universe where Africa colonised Europe, rather than the other way round. 

Actress Bonnie Mbuli also stars in this series shot in Cape Town. Watch the trailer on YouTube here.

2. Yvonne Orji: Momma I Made It!

In her first HBO comedy special, Nigeria’s Yvonne Orji, better known as Molly from Insecure, has the audience rolling with laughter as she brings her razor-sharp wit and confidence to the stage.

Both celebrating and poking fun at her strict, formative Nigerian-American upbringing, Yvonne shares her unique journey from pre-med to comedy, talks about parental pressures to get married and takes us along to Lagos to meet her family and friends.

Momma, I Made It won a nomination for a 2021 Image Award for Outstanding Variety Show (Series or Special). YouTube trailer available here.

3. Is’thunzi

South Africa’s Thuso Mbedu is making headlines globally right now as the star of The Underground Railroad, but Is’thunzi is where it all began.

She earned back-to-back Best Actress nominations at the International Emmy Awards in 2017 and 2018 for her role as Winnie in this popular isiZulu teen drama.

The show also picked up South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) for Best Actress and Actor for Mbedu and S’Dumo Mtshali (IsibayaiNumber Number) respectively, not to mention nominations for the all-star cast of Pallance Dladla (DAMShadow), Thulane Shange (UzaloiNumber Number), and Zikhona Bali (DiepCity). See what Is’thunzi is all about on YouTube.

4. Rafiki

Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki was named Outstanding Film – Limited Release at the 2020 GLAAD Media Awards, which recognise and honour media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the LGBTQ community and the issues that affect their lives.    

“Good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives,” but Kena (Samantha Mugatsia, who won Best Actress at Carthage 2018 and FESPACO 2019 for the role) and Ziki (Sheila Munyiva) long for something more. When love blossoms between them, the two girls are forced to choose between happiness and safety.

Winner of 17 international awards, the Kenyan romance has a 93% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Watch the YouTube trailer here.

5. Liyana

Winner of 35 awards, Liyana is a genre-defying documentary that tells the story of five children in the Kingdom of Eswatini who, with some guidance from South African storyteller Gcina Mhlope, turn past trauma into an original fable about a girl named Liyana, who embarks on a perilous quest to save her young twin brothers.

The film weaves Liyana’s animated journey together with poetic documentary scenes to create an inspiring tale of perseverance and hope. Catch the trailer on YouTube.

6. I Am Not A Witch

After a minor incident in her village, nine-year-old Shula is exiled to a travelling witch camp where she is told that if she tries to escape she will be transformed into a goat.

As she navigates through her new life with her fellow witches and a government official who exploits her innocence for his own gain, she must decide whether to accept her fate or risk the consequences of seeking freedom.

Winner of 15 international awards, including the BAFTA for Best Debut for Zambian-born, Wales-raised director Rungano Nyoni, I Am Not A Witch has a 96% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The trailer is available here.

Nyoni was inspired by a spate of witch accusations aimed at women, which took place over a particularly dry summer in Zambia, and by her month-long stay at a 200-year-old witch camp in Ghana.

7. The Forgotten Kingdom

Atang (Zenzo Ngqobe from The RiverTsotsi) returns to a mountain village in Lesotho to bury his father. Expecting to return to the city quickly, he instead befriends an orphan herd-boy, is stirred by memories of his youth and falls for a childhood friend, Dineo (Nozipho Nkelemba).

The Forgotten Kingdom won 15 international awards, including seven Audience Awards from American festivals, and Best Cinematography, Sound and Child Actor (Lebohang Ntsane) at the Africa Movie Academy Awards, where it earned another six nominations, including Best Film and Best Actor for Nqobe. Catch a glimpse of it here.

8. La Noire De… (Black Girl)

Ousmane Sembène’s debut 1966 film, La Noire De… (Black Girl), is the story of a young Senegalese woman who is employed as a governess for a French family in Dakar and moves with them to the Riviera, where her comfortable duties as a nanny in a wealthy household are replaced by the drudgery and indignities of a maid. 

Black Girl won the Tanit d’Or at Carthage in 1966, among other prizes, and was hailed by Oscar winner Martin Scorcese (The Irishman) as “an astonishing movie.” It’s at #3 on both the Tarifa-Tangiers African Film Festival’s list of the 10 best African films of all time and The Guardian’s list of The 20 Best African Films, Ranked. Watch the trailer on YouTube.

9. Cairo Station

In the 1958 classic Cairo Station, Youssef Chahine both directs and stars as Qinawi, a crippled newspaper vendor who falls for a lemonade seller, Hanouma, who is engaged to another station worker, Abu-Serih.

As Abu-Serih tries to unionise the station workers, Qinawi’s fixation on Hanouma crosses the line from innocent crush to dangerous obsession. 

Cairo Station screened in competition at Berlin and was included in The Story of Film, the definitive history of cinema, while Chahine went on to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Cannes in 1997. The movie has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It’s at #4 on both The Guardian’s list of The 20 Best African Films, Ranked and Taste of Cinema’s list of 20 Essential African Films You Need To Watch. Catch a glimpse of what it’s all about on YouTube.

10. Yaaba (Grandmother)

Late Burkina Faso filmmaker Idrissa Ouedraogo – hailed by Variety as “a towering figure of African cinema” – came to international attention in 1989 with Yaaba (Grandmother), the story of two children who make friends with an old woman who has been outcast as a witch by her village.

At Cannes that year, Yaaba won the FIPRESCI Critics’ Prize and also took a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury. Yaaba, which has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has a trailer on YouTube.

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