If you have not yet made it to the African continent and you need to reminisce, or if you’re there right now, here are some great movies to stir up those feelings. True, it might be a bit cliché to watch a movie about a country when you’re in the country, but never will you be more taken by its story, its backgrounds, its language and its message. So make the time and engross yourselves in these crackers:
Mandela, Long walk to freedom (2013)
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a South African film based on Long Walk to Freedom, the 1994 autobiography by Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician. It is a chronicle of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood in a rural village as he comes of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. . Idris Elba stars as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris stars as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Based on the program for biological and chemicals weapons of the South African apartheid regime (Project coast) and the book “Zulu” by author Caryl Férey. The film was chosen as the 2013 Cannes film festival closing film.
Constant Gardener (2005)
The Constant Gardner based on a novel by John le Carre tells the story of Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes), a British diplomat whose activist wife Tessa (Rachel Weisz) is murdered. Set in Kenya’s large slum, Kibera, just outside of Nairobi is a murder mystery involving corrupt pharmaceutical companies trying to use poor Africans as guinea pigs for their latest drugs, and British diplomats turning a blind eye in order to save face.
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
The Last King of Scotland is a movie about the memoir of a fictional Scottish doctor named Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who worked in Uganda and finds himself unwittingly picked as the personal physician to one of the world’s most brutal dictators, Idi Amin. Forest Whitaker plays Idi Amin and he won a best acting Oscar for his incredible performance.
This award-winning 1998 novel by Giles Foden was filmed in Uganda and is worth watching just to get a feel of the countryside and places. Of course Uganda is now at peace and Idi Amin and his equally brutal successor, Milton Obote, are distant memories.
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Based on real life events in Rwanda during the spring of 1994, when tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples lead to a war in Rwanda, where corruption and bribes between politicians are routine.
This film star Don Cheadle as hotelier Paul Rusesabagina, who attempts to rescue his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. Anyone travelling to Rwanda should read up on the genocide and try and get a better understanding of what exactly happened and visit the genocide museum in Kigali.
Cry for Freedom (1987)
The film is set in the late 1970’s during South Africa’s apartheid era, bases on the books by Donald Woods. The film centres on the real-life events involving black activist Steve Biko and his friend Donald Woods.The films is set around discrimination, political corruption and the repercussions of violence. Nominated for various awards, including the Academy awards (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song) and winning various ones including the Berlin International Film Festival and the British Academy Film Awards
Out of Africa (1985)
If you are planning an East African safari and you want to get in the mood, this is a good movie to watch. The scenery is spectacular, the acting is great (Meryl Streep and Robert Redford) and it’s very romantic. This movie has proved to be one of Kenya’s most effective marketing tools.
The Lion King:
If you haven’t seen Simba singing and dancing along with Rafiki, Pumba and Timone then, my friend, your childhood has a huge Disney shaped hole in it and needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
As you backpack around East Africa you’ll see the strong Swahili references throughout the movie, a great reference point for a charming region and an equally charming movie. Simba means lion, Poomba means warthog and more endearingly (as you’ll hear yelled across the street countless times) Rafiki means friend.
This Is Africa.
The movie which gave birth to the mainstream usage of this age-old maxim – When your bus leave 3 hours late, TIA. When your food arrives and is nothing like what you ordered, TIA. All fun and games of course, but this movie paints a slightly grimmer picture of TIA- namely conflict or blood diamonds. Set in Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia as Leo Di Caprio, politically charged, insists on calling it throughout the movie) it tells the story of a local man who comes across a valuable diamond. The lengths at which people are prepared to go to is a shocking reminder to how cheap life can be on this continent sometimes. The movie points a stern finger at a European diamond company (I’m sure you see the parallels with reality here!) who horde the diamonds, keeping the prices high and thereby maintaining the violent acts dished out by the people in charge of the diamond mines across Africa. It may not be a true story per se, however I bet you’ll think twice about those diamond earrings next time you reach for your jewellery drawer.
Set in South Africa, the story-line goes that an extraterrestrial race come to earth and are forced to live in horrible conditions. They are rejected by the mainstream population of both South Africa and the world and are relocated to District 9. A farfetched story I hear you say?
Not quite… the movie is based on historical event which transpired during the apartheid era, specifically when 60, 000 blacks were ‘relocated’ to District 6 in Cape Town. Don’t let the xenophobic themes get you down though, when you are sipping your ice-cold beer on Long Street in Cape Town you’ll feel a whole different vibe now, I assure you of that.