Noughts + Crosses was named one of “the 10 best British TV shows of 2020” by Mashable, who called it, “crucially important… a kind of drama/thriller/romance hybrid, mixing Game of Thrones-style political backstabbing with a very human story of discrimination and systemic oppression. The end result? A stunningly-crafted epic that’s every bit as tense as it is impactful.”
South African Masali Baduza (Trackers) and BAFTA winner Jack Rowan (Born To Kill, Peaky Blinders) 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.
Time to celebrate Africans on a global stage?
Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It! | Nigerian comedy special
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.
Entertainment Weekly calls Momma, I Made It! “an hour of joy”, IndieWire hails it as “a rip-roaring standup special,” and Fast Company says it’s “the laugh the black community needs right now.”
Been sleeping on Africa’s next superstar?
IS’THUNZI | South African teen drama
South Africa’s Thuso Mbedu is making headlines globally right now as the star of The Underground Railroad, an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, directed by Oscar winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk). Even Oprah is a fan, saying on Instagram that, “@thuso.mbedu gives the performance of a lifetime. Great things are coming for her and everyone will be saying her name after watching her as the superhero that is Cora.”
Want a reminder of The power of a story?
Liyana | Kingdom of Eswatini documentary
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.
Liyana is the directorial debut of Swaziland-born and raised Aaron Kopp, with his wife Amanda. Before moving into directing, Aaron shot the Oscar-winning documentary Saving Face and the Oscar-nominated The Hunting Ground.
Feel Like a sharp satire and Feminist allegory?
I Am Not A Witch | Zambian satire
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.
Ready for a holiday in the mountains?
The Forgotten Kingdom | Lesotho-set drama
Atang (Zenzo Ngqobe from The River, Tsotsi) 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.
Getting to Know ‘The Farther of Africa cinema’?
La Noire De… (Black Girls) | Senegalese drama
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.
Feel like a crime classic?
Cairo Station | Egyptian crime film
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. Time Out praised it as “a great overlooked masterpiece”, The Guardian as “unmissable”, The Hollywood Reporter as “a jewel of a film” and BBC as “an excellent thriller, and one that anticipates the serial killer genre that Hitchcock’s Psycho kick-started a few years later… a cinematic triumph.”
A trip back in time?
Yaaba (Grandmother) | Burkina Faso drama
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 shared the FIPRESCI Critics’ Prize with Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape and also took a Special Mention from the Ecumenical Jury. Yaaba has an 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Los Angeles Times saying, “Yaaba’s power sneaks up on you… Flawless… Told in terms of the greatest elegance and simplicity.”