African film is having a moment

From across the continent and beyond, directors are flexing their creative muscles – as the line-up at the African Film Festival in New York shows.

Judging from the lineup of films currently on show at the African Film Festival in New York, something significant is happening in filmmaking across the African continent and beyond (as many of the films are the result of international or diasporic collaborations). The lineup of features and shorts is rich in genre, stylistic treatment and subject matter, and the programme is stuffed to the gills with films we can only envy New Yorkers their access to.

There are animations (such as the lavishly rendered Kirikou and the Sorceress), fictional features (the Nigerian/Swedish comedy of errors Head Gone),  documentaries telling some important untold stories (Pirating Pirates) and compelling dramas (Ethiopian-Israeli Bazi Gete’s autobiographical Red Leaves and Stories of our Lives, which made its African premiere at Design Indaba Festival 2015). There are a fair number of movies experimenting with modes of storytelling and a large number covering topics in art, design and culture. There are also a few proudly South African premieres.

Here are a choice few highlights.

100% Dakar – More Than Art

100% DAKAR – More Than Art is a portrait of the creative arts scene in Dakar, Senegal. The country has a rich cultural heritage – championed by poet, politician and founding president Léopold Sédar Senghor – that is being renewed by a new generation of artists and cultural activists in Dakar. The film features creatives (such as Selly Raby Kane and Omar Viktor Diop, both of whom are well known to Design Indaba readers and audiences) whose appetites and interests travel to all corners of the globe. 100% Dakar visits these these fashion designers, hip hop musicians, graffiti artists, photographers, bloggers and dancers who are agents of change in their home city.

Flying Stars

This documentary, by Sierra Leonean-Canadians Ngardy Conteh George and Canadian Allan Tong Ngardy, makes its US premiere at the festival. The film explores the lives of Bornor and Census, two amputees who play in a soccer league for players who had limbs amputated during Sierra Leone's civil war. The documentary follows the men as as try to live up to their team name, the Flying Stars, reaching for their dreams on and off the soccer pitch.

Cold Harbour

This much-awaited feature from the producers of the stellar Jerusalema was directed by Carey McKenzie and filmed in Cape Town last year. It made its New York premiere as the festival's opening night feature. Told in English, Xhosa, Sotho and Mandarin, the story begins when the mutilated body of a Chinese man washes up on a Cape Town beach. For township policeman Sizwe Miya, this is an opportunity to prove himself and earn the promotion he desperately needs. His boss and mentor, Venske, gives Sizwe the case but assigns a rookie cop, Legama, to keep an eye on him. The film delves into the murky relationship between organised crime and law enforcement officials.

The Narrow Frame of Midnight

This film, directed by Moroccan-Iraqi filmmaker Tala Hadid, follows the intersecting stories of three characters, each longing for something they have lost. Zacaria, a Moroccan-Iraqi writer, is searching for his brother; Judith, a teacher, is the lover he has left behind; and Aïcha is a young orphan on the run. Their journeys lead them from Morocco to Istanbul, across Kurdistan and into Iraq, punctuating points of conflict across the Arab World.


Côte d'Ivoirian Philippe Lacôte directs his feature film debut, Run, which made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last year. The film chronicles the devastating toll of the country’s long-running civil war through the lens of a 21-year-old named Run. He finds shelter with fellow dissident Assa after assassinating the Prime Minister of the Ivory Coast.