African Top 5 Influential Filmmakers

by Duke Magazine

There is a continual paradigm shift in global film industry, and Africa is not an exception, where film by filmmakers have exploded throughout the continent and has seeped into the hearts of millions.

African cinema dates back to the 20th century when film reels were used to tell the story of its own people. Prior to African film, Africa was shown to the world through the eyes of Western filmmakers, who often depicted the continent in a negative light. But the narrative has rapidly changed when African-owned theaters began sprouting in parts of Eastern and Northern Africa, specifically Egypt, which still houses one of the oldest cinemas in the world.

Fast forward a century later, there are now hundreds of African filmmakers to watch out for, but below are five that you must know:

Cheikh Amadou Ndiaye

Cheikh Amadou Ndiaye

Senegalese filmmaker and actor, Cheikh Amadou Ndiyae has been praised as one of the continent’s premier storytellers for his groundbreaking films and cutting-edge cinematography.

Shortly after graduating from the National School of Fine Arts in Dakar, and the School of Fine Arts in Lyon, France, he decided to create films that infuse African architecture and urbanism. His approach landed him dozens of recognition, including becoming a part of the permanent collections of the Kadist Art Foundation and Centre Pompidou in Paris.

“I would like for people to understand that there are many beautiful things in Africa and that there are many varied aspects to African cultures, especially in the area of dance, music, the art,” he told Park Record shortly after the release of his award-winning film, “Wrestling Grounds” (L’Appel des Arenes). 

Tsitsi Dangarembga

Tsitsi Dangarembga

A gig as a copywriter for a marketing agency is what propelled Tsitsi Dangarembga to begin writing plays, which eventually turned into 20-plus year career for the filmmaker and author.

Success came early for Dangarembga at the age of 25 when she wrote her novel “Nervous Conditions” a book that has since landed on BBC’s “100 Books that Have Shaped the World.” But rather than focus on writing books, she decided to gear towards film instead and attended the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin.

Everyone’s Child” is considered one of her most accoladed films. It was shown across the globe and premiered at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Dangarembga says her passion for film stems partially from her upbringing in Zimbabwe. “Zimbabwean society is a very secretive society. This means the real problems are rarely discussed in the open with the idea of finding solutions,” she told Open Democracy. “Our idea is to bring these issues to the public attention through film.”

Jean-Pierre Bekolo

Jean-Pierre Bekolo

Appraised as one of Cameroon’s most influential filmmakers, Jean-Pierre Bekolo impeccably infuse pop culture with politics to produce some of Africa’s most riveting films.

The Cameroonian’s debut film, “Quartier Mozart” premiered at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival for its punchy yet playful plot; the film inevitably made him an icon in the making. Shortly after his debut film’s success, he directed “Aristotle’s Plot,” which included the participation of artists like Scorsese, Bertolucci and Godard, and the political thriller “Les Saignantes,” which is considered Africa’s first sci-fi movie. The movie was nominated for two categories at the 2009 French Césars.

In addition to directing film, he also teaches at the University of California, Chapel Hill and Duke University.

Fanta Régina Nacro

Fanta Régina Nacro

When Fanta Régina Nacro was growing up in Burkina Faso, her intention was to become a midwife. But fate led her to film when she grew an interest in telling stories.

At the Institut d’Education Cinématographique de Ouagadougou (INAFEC), where she studied in the 80s, she took her first stab at directing when her school collaborated with Howard University’s film department to create a collective experience. She credits the “African American” partnership as being the force that catapulted her career.

Since then, Nacro has directed over a dozen movies including African classics like “Vivre Positivement” and 1995’s “Puk Nini.”

“I believe in exchanging ideas – in cultural exchange,” as quoted in Africa Shoots Back: Alternative Perspectives in Sub-Saharan Francophone African Film. “We watch European films. We make allowances, retain what is positive in Western culture and reject the negative, so I don’t see why Western audiences shouldn’t see African images.”

Blitz the Ambassador

Blitz the Ambassador

Blitz the Ambassador didn’t think the youth in Ghana (where he was born and raised) was allowed to have a voice. So, as a teen, he looked up to rappers like Public Enemy and KRS-One for speaking their mind – and he eventually decided to follow their footsteps.

The critically-acclaimed rapper is now making a wave in the hip-hop industry, and what makes him so special is that he collides his music with film that he creates himself. His 2016 hit album, “Diasporadical” came equipped with a 15-minute short film called “Diasporadical Trilogía,” a candid tale of a woman who wakes up in three different continents during three different times of her life.

“Sometimes I would write a song and then figure out how it fit into the storyline; sometimes I would write a treatment, score it, then shoot. I never have a rigid plan in my creative process because I believe that everything bleeds into everything,” he said in a TEDx article.

Other films of his include “The Burial of Koko” and “Native Son.” He is set to appear in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, an exhibition of contemporary American art created by the youth.

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