It’s Africa Month! In celebrating African unity, this month we are highlighting film and TV creatives that continue to make the continent proud. Through their work in creating imaginative and captivating stories and bringing those to life through directing, acting or other filmic techniques, here are the southern African creatives making their mark on the world.
With roots firmly in Zimbabwe, US-born and partly Harare raised actor Danai Gurira gained prominence across the world playing Okoye, a warrior in the modern-day classic film Black Panther. A descendant of Zimbabwe’s rich filmic landscape of storytellers, filmmakers and actors, it was recently announced that Danai and US actor Forest Whitaker will star in the upcoming feature film The rise of Emmerson Mnangagwa - an account of the life of Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa. With a Master of Fine Arts in acting degree from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and a filmography that includes a wide range of films such as Avengers, All Eyez on Me and Mother of George, Danai’s acting and women’s rights advocacy work continues to make Zimbabwe proud.
Animation studio Triggerfish is carving a space for Africans on the global animation map! The Cape Town studio, which was nominated in 2018 for an Oscar for its film Revolting Rhymes, has again been in the news, this time for producing Mama K’s 4 Team, an upcoming animation series by Zambian writer Malenga Mulendema. Malenga is being celebrated for creating Mama K’s 4 Team, a captivating animated series about four teenage African girl superheroes from a futuristic Lusaka. According to Animation World Network, Malenga is connected to Triggerfish after being named as one of eight winners in the Triggerfish Story Lab initiative in 2015, a pan-African talent search. Not only about taking African animation to the global scene, Triggerfish is also committed to developing the animation industry at home. Earlier this year, the studio awarded students from disadvantaged background bursaries to pursue their passion for animation.
Using storytelling multitalented Zimbabwean director and novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga has continually centre the narratives of women and girls, while vocally advocating for women’s rights especially in the film industry. Founder of African Women Filmmakers Hub, which she says she started “to bring African women filmmakers together to make the films millions of people in the world are waiting to see”, Tsitsi is also the author of lauded novel Nervous Condition and Neria, a movie released in 1992 which is considered a classic and one of Zimbabwe’s top grossing films to date. In April, Tsitsi launched a crowdfunding campaign for her anticipated upcoming feature, titled Nnenna, about a teenage girl discovering sexuality, a topic which she is cannot engage with her mother. Go Tsitsi!
Zambian and Welsh filmmaker Rungano Nyoni is a director whose work has captured the imagination of so many around the world. Her debut film, I Am Not A Witch, shot in Zambia and about a girl accused of being a witch in her village, premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2017 and last year won a Bafta (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. As her work, which was recently scooped by Netflix, is touted as “a significant new screen voice” by the Hollywood Reporter, Lusaka-born Cardiff-raised Rungano is one to watch as a filmmaker putting Zambia on the global filmic map.
Donald Molosi is one of Botswana’s most precious talents. A playwright, actor, book writer and director, Molosi credits include starring in Broadway productions and Hollywood films, such as A United Kingdom and Green Zone, alongside US actor Matt Damon. With a coveted resume that includes having obtained a Master of Arts degree in Theatre and Performance Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara and winning Best Short Solo Award at United Solo Theatre Festival for his theatre performance as former president of Botswana Seretse Khama, Molosi recently released the film trailer for the adaptation of his book We Are Blue, a collection of plays Blue, Black and White and Motswana: Africa, Dream Again. We Are Blue, a documentary, visualises Botswana through the eyes of Molosi and according to the Botswana Guardian, “explores some fundamental life questions about identity and belonging, about being a Motswana, and about the contradictions inherent in the country he loves”.
Maria João Ganga
Maria João Ganga is arguably the godmother of Angolan cinema and the first woman to direct a feature film in the south-central African country. An alumni of École supérieure d'études cinématographiques, or ESEC film school, in Paris and also an accomplished playwright and theatre director, the multitalented Maria became touted in the industry with the release of her first film in 2004, titled Hollow City (Na Cidade Vazia), is an adaptation of Artur Carlos Maurício Pestana dos Santos’s book. Angola-born Maria took home the Special Jury Prize at the Paris Film Festival for the movie, which has shown at several festivals across the globe, and has worked as assistant director on films such as Rostov-Luanda, a documentary by Mauritanian filmmaker of critical acclaim Abderrahmane Sissako.
Charles Shemu Joyah
Award-winning filmmaker and producer Charles Shemu Joyah makes movies that continue to showcase Malawi’s film industry. A multitalented creative and scientist, born in Zimbabwe, Charles - who has an academic background in the sciences - is an award-winning published author, and has also garnered much fanfare for his gripping screenplays, which he has turned into films. His latest movie, The Road to Sunrise, about two workers who learn to rely on each other as they struggle to survive in the unforgiving townships of Blantyre, Malawi, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2018 in the Best Foreign Language Film category, making this the first Malawian movie nominated for the coveted Oscar. The Road to Sunrise also scooped an award at the AMVAs, or Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, for best Southern African film.
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