Published Sep 08
9 inspired African movies and series to watch online
Knuckle City | Watch now
In South Africa’s powerful 2020 Oscar entry, an ageing, womanising professional boxer (SAFTA winner Bongile Mantsai from Inxeba (The Wound) and Scandal) and his career-criminal brother (Thembekile Komani) take one last shot at success and get more than they've bargained for.
Knuckle City was the most awarded film at this year’s SAFTAs, taking home six awards, including Best Director, Best Actor for Bongile, Best Supporting Actor for Patrick Ndlovu, Best Editing (Layla Swart), as well as Production Design and Make-Up and Hairstyling.
Directed by multiple SAFTA-winner Jahmil X.T. Qubeka (Blood Psalms, Of Good Report, Sew The Winter To My Skin), Knuckle City has a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “It is impossible not to be completely consumed by Knuckle City,” wrote The Globe and Mail when the film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, describing it as “Raging Bull meets Rocky, but in South Africa” and praising its navigation of “the painful issues of toxic masculinity, age and the impossible-seeming choices one can be forced to make to ensure the survival of themselves and the people they love… Mantsai’s performance is gripping, electrifying and heart-breaking.”
Bongile won Best Actor at last year’s Durban International Film Festival, where Knuckle City was the opening night film, and at Africa International Film Festival in Nigeria.
The Mzansi Magic film is set in Qubeka’s own Eastern Cape hometown of Mdantsane, which has produced 17 boxing world champions since 1994. But as Knuckle City’s tagline says, “There are only three ways out. The ring. A cop car. A pine box.”
Look out for the likes of SAFTA winners Zolisa Xaluva (Gomora), Siv Ngesi (Still Breathing), and the late great Nomhle Nkonyeni, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
I Am Not A Witch | Watch now
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.
Winner of 15 international awards, including the BAFTA for Best Debut for Zambian-born, Wales-raised director Rungano Nyoni, I Am Not A Witch has a 96% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As Variety put it, “It’s rare and exhilarating that a new filmmaker arrives on the scene so sure of herself and so willing to take bold, counter-intuitive chances… Invigorating, intriguing and provocative.”
“I Am Not A Witch came about because of a huge spate of witch accusations that took place over a particularly dry summer in Zambia,” says Rungano. “What drew me in particular was that these accusations of witchcraft were almost always aimed at women. Naturally this added to my curiosity. What was particularly shocking in Zambia is that it’s a country dominated by Bembas, my maternal tribe. The Bemba people are matriarchal. We pride ourselves in the equality between men and women. Women were in the army and police long before many Western countries admitted them. Women could divorce just as easily as men. Women can own land and inherit just as a man does. Even our names are gender neutral. It’s this apparent contradiction that held my curiosity.”
“I soon saw this phenomena repeated throughout different parts of Africa,” she adds. “Eventually my research took me to Ghana. For over a month I stayed in one of the oldest witch camps in the world - over 200 years old – the first foreigner to sleep there apparently. It’s my stay at the witch camp that informed the script.”
Rungano co-directed and co-wrote the Vimeo Staff Pick short Listen, which was selected for over 150 film festivals and won over 70 awards including Best Short Narrative at Tribeca in 2015. She also directed the BAFTA-nominated short Mwansa The Great and wrote the Locarno Golden Leopard winner The Mass of Men.
Life With Kelly Khumalo | Watch eps 1-6 now; eps 7-13 due 27 August 2020
A household name by 21, Kelly Khumalo is one of South Africa’s biggest music stars. She’s been named Best Female Artist at the South African Music Awards, sold millions of albums, opened for Grammy winner Missy Elliott, and has over 1.7m followers on Instagram alone.
But in recent years, her stardom has been dogged by controversies, from her turbulent relationship with her son’s father, hip hop star Jub Jub, and the conspiracy theories surrounding the death of her daughter’s father, Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa, to her recent "divorce" from her sister, Zandie.
Life With Kelly Khumalo offers an intimate glimpse of the woman behind the headlines: a single mother of two, juggling parenting with the build-up to the release of not just her new album, Voice of Africa, but also her first gin, appropriately titled Controversy - both threatened by South Africa’s unprecedented Covid-19 lockdown.
“I've always been an authentic person,” says Kelly. “So this reality show is not so much about trying to explain myself or trying to win people over. I just want people to see me for who I am. All I can do is live my truth and let people be inspired by that.”
Big Brother Naija S5 | Watch now, with evictions at 7pm every Sunday
Big Brother Naija Lockdown, which started on 19 July, has already broken a Showmax live-streaming record and become the most-watched live entertainment content ever on the streaming service. If watched back to back, the collective number of hours of the show streamed this season already add up to almost 30 years’ worth of viewing.
This year Showmax is live-streaming the full show 24/7, and judging by the viewing statistics, BBNaija fans have enthusiastically taken to watching it online. The evictions are the most popular part of the show, with viewing peaking at 19:00 on Sundays.
Interestingly, while Nigeria accounts for almost 50% of the viewing hours, South Africans are also big fans, with 30% of the viewing happening in SA, and another 15% happening in Kenya.
Capitalising on the success of BBNaija and the massive interest in the evictions, in a new development Showmax has added the Big Brother Naija Nomination Show. During the live eviction show, the contestants are called in by Big Brother to vote out two housemates. These Diary Room voting sessions, which aren’t seen in the course of the live stream show, are now available every Monday evening to watch on Showmax.
With the Big Brother Naija S5 finale coming up fast on 27 September 2020, and also being live-streamed on Showmax, more viewing records are expected to fall.
The Train of Salt and Sugar | Watch now
Mozambique is in the midst of civil war. A single train connects Nampula to Malawi. No civilians are allowed and yet hundreds risk their lives through 700km of sabotaged tracks. Salomão and Taiar are two soldiers who don’t get along. Rosa is a young nurse on her way to her first job, who soon becomes an object of desire. Mariamu, her close friend, only hopes to trade salt for sugar. Among bullets and laughter, life goes on and stories unfold as the train advances under attack, ever so slowly, towards the next stop.
Directed by award-winning Mozambican filmmaker Licínio Azevedo (Virgin Margarida), and co-produced by South Africa’s Urucu Media (The Wound, This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection), The Train of Salt and Sugar won the Independent Italian Critics Award for best film at Locarno 2016, as well as Best Film at Carthage and Johannesburg, not to mention Best Director at Cairo, among other honours.
The Hollywood Reporter called it, “Stirring and heartfelt… An epic tale of peril and endurance on an arduous cross-country journey,” while Variety called it “a harrowing account of the extraordinary risks ordinary people were forced to take in order to survive the country’s brutal civil war.”
Love Island UK S6 | 5 eps every Saturday; binge from 26 September
For African fans dying to see the latest season of the BAFTA-winning reality show Love Island UK, the long wait is finally over. And it’s all the more delicious because this is the season that was filmed at a villa in Cape Town, South Africa.
Laura Whitmore of Strictly Come Dancing and I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! fame is this season’s new host for the drama-packed reality show, where single hopefuls flirt, date, break up and make up while trying to capture the hearts of viewers, who will vote for their favourite couple to take home the £50k prize money.
Joko Ya Hao | Watch now
Inspired by the life of struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the 30-minute short film Joko Ya Hao tells the story of Nozizwe, a deeply spiritual Christian woman whose convictions lead her to defy the gender norms of the 1950s and those who believe women don’t belong in politics, leaving her village in Gracetown to fight the oppressive regime and seek help for her people.
Nominated for a 2020 SAFTA for Best Short Film, Joko Ya Hao is directed by SAFTA-winner Mmabatho Montsho (Thula’s Vine) and stars SAMA-winning songstress Simphiwe Dana alongside the likes of Jet Novuka (Uzalo, Yizo Yizo), Khanya Mkangisa (The Queen), Elliot Makhubo (Rhythm City) and Wandile Molebatsi (A Million Colours).
Sol Family | Watch now, new episodes every Monday
Sauti Sol have won an MTV Africa Music Award for Best Group, an MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act, and four All Africa Music Awards. They’ve dined and danced with Barack Obama at State House. They’ve collaborated with Sho Madjozi, Patoranking, Tiwa Savage, Spoek Mathambo, Yemi Alade and India Arie. They’ve had over 150m views on YouTube. And now, they are offering their fans a glimpse into their lives with the brand-new reality series Sol Family, created by Eugene Mbugua (Our Perfect Wedding).
The 13-part series, which also airs on Maisha Magic Plus, explores the lives of band members Bien, Chimano, Polycarp and Savara, exploring how it all began, their music-making process, and the relationships that matter most to them. Sol Family also introduces Nviiri the Storyteller and Bensoul, the two artists who make up Sauti Sol’s passion project, Sol Generation family – a record label launched by the band in 2019 to build their legacy and nurture young music talents in Kenya.
Mother to Mother | From 26 August 2020
A filmed account of the stage version of Sindiwe Magona’s novel about the tragic killing of Amy Biehl during the pre-election violence of 1993, Mother to Mother explores the difficult channels of forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation from the perspective of the mothers of the killer and the victim. Based on the intimate one-woman play staged by singer, actress and playwright Thembi Mtshali, Mother to Mother seeks an understanding from the mother as she explains the direct consequences of apartheid, which influenced her son’s actions. Interspersed with the filmed theatrical production are personal interviews with Magona and Mtshali, as well as with students from the Western Cape in South Africa.
Directed by Sara de Gouveia (The Sound of Masks, Mama Goema), Mother to Mother comes to Showmax straight from its world premiere at the 2020 Encounters International Documentary Film Festival, who praised the documentary as “an engaging and thought-provoking work of cinema that expands our collective humanity.”
Mother to Mother recently won second place in the category Best African Female Filmmaker at the prestigious Encounters South African International Documentary Festival.