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The Top 10 African films of 2011 0


2011 was a good year for African cinema. In various cinema seats and at home, I’ve been intrigued and moved, horrified and sickened, surprised and hugely entertained by a group of industries that together we call ‘African cinema’ — a sign that what can be expected is anything but stereotypical. In the list below, I’ve chosen films that have expanded what we might think of as ‘African cinema’. Some short films, some documentary, some fiction, some a strange mix of them all.


However, the films I can’t list are perhaps the most powerful ones of the year; those captured on mobile phones and camcorders during critical moments in uprisings, revolutions and elections that have continued to broaden our grasp on the lives and experiences of those whose lives are not yet captured by cinema. This is a new kind of viewing, and one which I think will continue to transform the aesthetic, narratives and distribution of African film in 2012.

(A note for readers: some of these films were released in 2010, but gained theatrical release or wider audiences this year so I’ve included them too. In each case a description of the film is accompanied by its trailer.)

A Screaming Man. Director Mahamat Saleh Haroun. Starring Youssouf Djaoro, Diouc Koma. Chad, 2010, 92 mins
A subtle and masterful story of a father and sons relationship, set against the backdrop of the ongoing civil war in Chad. Filmed around the glittering edges of a hotel swimming pool threatened by the outside world, Haroun’s characteristic wit and tender approach to filming continues his themes of war, fatherhood and family life.

Dirty Laundry. Dir. Stephen Abbott. Starring Bryan van Niekerk, James Ngcobo, Carl Beukes. South Africa, 2011, 16 mins
Roger has a tough time when he shows up to the Wishy Washy at 1am, and begins to separate ‘his whites from his coloreds’. A fantastic short film, a microcosm of the acerbic wit and humor evident in much post-Apartheid cinema.


The Athlete. Dir. Rasselas Lakew and Davey Frankel. Starring Rasselas Lakew. Ethiopia/USA, 2009, 93 mins
Melding breathtaking archival footage with live action, this is the extraordinary story of the triumphs and tragedies of a man considered by many to be the greatest long-distance runner in history: Ethiopian marathon runner Abebe Bikila. You can read my post on The Athlete on AIAC here.


Blood in the Mobile. Dir. Frank Piasecki Poulsen . Denmark/DRC, 2010, 82 mins
Are you reading this on your phone? Poulsen’s documentary is engrossing and hard-hitting as it implicates all of us – through our addiction to our mobile phones – in the civil war in eastern Congo. Poulsen sets out to reveal the source of ‘conflict minerals’, which he suspects are used in the world’s largest mobile phone company, Nokia. Corporate inhumanity turns out to be just as terrifying as the heart of civil war, a different devil, which Poulsen shows in this fantastic and brave documentary.


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By Basia Lewandowska CummingsAfrica is a country

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