Africa is steeped in rich tradition of storytelling. What begun as oral storytelling has spilled to all forms of media, including film. Storytelling is about sharing traditions, cultures passed down from generation to generation Storytelling is also about finding your voice, sharing your inner world and sharing your experiences. Every voice matters yet African women are sidelined from filmmaking. Here are 7 African female filmmakers you should know:
Thérèse Bella Mbida (Sita Belle) (Cameroon)
Thérèse Bella Mbida (1933–27 February 2006) defied all odds as pioneer in the film industry despite asserting “you know cinema is not a woman’s business”. In 1963 she became the first female filmmakers in Cameroon. She is also the first African female filmmaker. Her most acclaimed work is “Tam Tam à Paris”. Tam Tam à Paris featured at the first Week of African Cinema in 1969. The 30-minute film documented the National Dance Company of Cameroon during its tour in Paris. It was featured at the first FESPACO in 1969, alongside the films of Mustapha Alassane (Niger), Oumarou Ganda (Niger), Urbain N’Dia (Cameroun), Serge Ricci-Sékou-Ouédraogo (Burkina Faso), Ababacar Samb (Senegal), Ousmane Sembene (Senegal), Momar Thiam (Senegal), Paulin Vieyra (Senegal).
Safi Fayi (Senegal)
The legendary Safi Faye’s first feature film was Kaddu Beykat, which means The Voice of the Peasant in Wolof and was known internationally as Letter from My Village (or News from My Village). She obtained financial backing for Kaddu Beykat from the French Ministry of Cooperation. Released in 1975, it was the first feature film to be made by a Sub-Saharan African woman to be commercially distributed and gained international recognition for Faye. On its release it was banned in Senegal. In 1976 it won the FIPRESCI Prize from the International Federation of Film Critics (tied with Chhatrabhang) and the OCIC Award.
Jessie Chisi (Zambia)
In 2014 Chisi debuted “Between Rings”, a film about Esther Phiri, Zambia’s first female boxer, who was torn between marriage and career. The film was screened at the FestivalCopenhagen International Documentary. In 2016 she collaborated with Cassie Kabwita on Sound of Silence, a movie about sexual and domestic violence. She wrote, co-produced and co-directed Imagination(2017), about a young boy in Garden Township, Lusaka who dreams against the odds of becoming a filmmaker.
Oshosheni Hiveluah (Nambia)
Hiveluah has produced films such as Tjitji the Himba Girl, Omeva, Cries at Night and 100 Bucks. Tjitji the Himba girl was selected as part of the official short film at Africa International Film Festival in 2015. Her films have screened at numerous film festivals and have been awarded with several prizes. Her aspiration is to tell alternative African stories primarily for African audiences that examine the human psyche and explore who we are as people.
Mati Diop (Senegal)
Diop is a film director and actress. Her short film Atlantiques (2009) won the Rotterdam International Film Festival’s Tiger Award for Short Film, and a Top Prize at Media City Film Festival during her first North American appearance in 2009. She is the first black female director to be in contention for the Cannes Film Festival’s highest prize, the Palme d’Or.At Cannes, Atlantics won the Grand Prix. It was picked up by Netflix shortly following Cannes’ award announcements.
Nosipho Dumisa (South Africa)
In 2014 Dumisa submitted short film, Nommer 37, to the Silwerskerm Film Festival. She and her co-direcor won Best Directors while also being nominated in every other category (the only short film to do so in that year). Dumisa was awarded the Cheval Noir jury prize for Best Director at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, Quebec as well as receiving seven SAFTA nominations including best picture. Dumisa is teaming up with Netflix to create the second original series from South Africa – “Blood & Water”.
Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya)
Kahiu is a film director, producer, and author. She is well known for her film Rafiki which became Kenya’s first film to debut at the Cannes Film Festival. She has received several awards and nominations for the films which she directed, including the awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Picture at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009 for her dramatic feature film “From a Whisper”. She is also the co-founder of AFROBUBBLEGUM, a media collective dedicated to supporting African art. Her first feature film, From a Whisper, received a total of twelve nominations and earned five awards at the 5th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2009. Kahiu has had a number of films under her name including Pumzi, which won awards at Cannes and the Venice film festival.