Part 2   The Challenges Africa Faces—Viewed from Various Sides

Few places have a starker gap than Africa between their portrayal in the media and the actual on-the-ground reality. These films reveal diverse perspectives regarding the continent’s ongoing challenges that can only have been gained by spending time there, and experiencing Africa’s history together with its people.

-Congo River, Beyond Darkness

Congo River, au-delà des ténèbres

BELGIUM / 2005 / English, French / Color / Digital File / 116 min

Director: Thierry Michel
Photography: Michel Techy
Editing: Marie Quinton
Sound: Lieven Callens
Music: Lokua Kanza
Narration: Lye Mudaba Yoka, Thierry Michel, Olivier Cheysson
Producers: Christine Pireaux, Serge Lalou
Source: Les Films de la Passerelle

Belgian director Thierry Michel has taken a direct, unflinching look at the historical and social problems that have plagued the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in films including Mobutu, King of Zaire and Katanga Business. In this film, released in 2005, Michel journeys up the Congo River, a central feature of the DRC and central Africa. In taking this trip, the film attempts to bring to life the area beyond darkness written about by Polish-British author Joseph Conrad. With music from the famous Congolese singer Lokua Kanza, the crew journeys from the mouth of the river to its source. The viewer encounters the centuries-old mythology of the river and the legendary figures who made history in the heart of Africa: explorers like David Livingstone (1813–1873) and Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1841–1904), the colonial kings Leopold II and Baudouin I, and the Africans—Lumumba, Mobutu, and Kabila—who ruled after independence.

In association with L’Institut français du Japon

- An African Election

GHANA, USA, SWITZERLAND / 2010 / English, Akan / Color / Digital File / 86 min

Directors: Jarreth Merz, Kevin Merz
Photography: Kevin Merz, Topher Osborn
Editing: Samir Samperisi
Music, Composer: Patrick Kirst
Executive Producers: Franco Agustoni, Brigitte Agustoni
Producer, Source: Jarreth Merz
Co-producers: Tiziana Soudani, Luisella Realini, Silvana Bezzolla

The 2008 presidential elections in Ghana, West Africa serve as a backdrop for this much-discussed documentary as it looks at the untidiness of African elections, and also at the pride and humanity of the politicians and citizens that emerge from them. Elections in this film are a part of the strange and complex political machinery of a third-world democracy struggling to legitimize itself to its first-world contemporaries. The director follows the key players for almost three months to provide an unprecedented insider’s view of the political, economic and social forces at work in Ghana.

-Robert Mugabe . . . What Happened?

UK, FRANCE, SOUTH AFRICA / 2011 / English / Color / Digital File / 84 min

Director: Simon Bright
Photography: Nick Hofmeyr, Esko Metsola
Editing: Jenny Hicks, Joël Jacovella, Ronelle Loots, Jacques Merais
Sound Editor: Barry Donnelly
Executive Producers: Gary Edwardes, Jerry Rothwell
Producer: Michael Auret
Co-producers: Rahad Desai, Claire Lajoumard, Martin Pieper

Mugabe was damned as a terrorist, then knighted by Queen Elizabeth—and is still in power more than thirty years later. The film explores what happened to this national hero through interviews with some of his closest comrades. It assembles a unique collection of southern African archives to powerfully evoke each of the decades of Mugabe’s reign. This is a complex and compelling view of Zimbabwe the country, and Mugabe the man.

-Beats of the Antonov

SUDAN, SOUTH AFRICA / 2014 / Arabic / Color / Blu-ray / 68 min

Director, Photography: Hajooj Kuka
Editing: Hajooj Kuka, Khalid Shamis
Producers: Hajooj Kuka, Steven Markovitz
Source: Big World Cinema

Sudan was in an almost constant state of civil war after it achieved independence in 1956, and it split into a pair of sovereign states in 2011. On the border between the two, Russian-made Antonov planes indiscriminately drop bombs on settlements in the Nuba Mountains below. Yet, incredibly, the people of the Blue Nile respond to adversity with music, singing, and dancing to celebrate their survival. Beats of the Antonov explores how music binds a community together, offering hope and a common identity for refugees engaged in a fierce battle to protect cultural traditions and heritage from those trying to obliterate them.

- The Siren of Faso Fani

La Sirène de Faso Fani

BURKINA FASO, FRANCE, GERMANY, QATAR / 2014 / French / Color / Digital File / 90 min

Director, Photography: Michel K. Zongo
Script: Michel K. Zongo, Christophe Cognet
Editor: François Sculier
Music: Smokey
Sound: Fanny Lelong, Moumouni “Jupiter” Sodré
Producers: Michel K. Zongo, Christian Lelong
Co-producer: Michael Bogar
Source: Cinédoc Films, Diam Production, Perfect Shot Films

The IMF and World Bank’s structural adjustment programs were aimed ideally at achieving the stabilization and growth of the economies of developing countries, but they have also been criticized for the deep wounds they left across Africa. This film tells one story of this process, focusing on a rural city in Burkina Faso. The shutdown of a once-famous cotton factory in Koudougou in 2001 put hundreds out of work and plunged thousands into poverty. A decade after this socioeconomic disaster, the director returns to a city that is now a shadow of its former self, and to the silent factory that was so central to his childhood. But most of all he comes to see the workers. Stripped of their livelihood and of their pride, they remain convinced that reviving the cotton industry can offer a viable future for the whole community.

- Mogadishu Soldier

NORWAY, DENMARK, FINLAND / 2016 / Kirundi, Somali, Swahili, English, French / Color / Digital File / 84 min

Director, Script: Torstein Grude
Photography, Sound: Bernard Ntawuyamara, John Bakundimana
Editing: Niels Pagh Andersen
Producers: Bjarte Mørner Tveit, Torstein Grude
Source: Norwegian Film Institute

A raw and unfiltered exploration of life in the Somalian war zone as seen by two Burundian soldiers. The fighting is taking place in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, a city of two million people. Somalia is abandoned by relief organizations, NGOs, and the press, as deployment there is extremely dangerous. The two soldiers are given a camera by the film’s director, and commence to deliver a steady flow of extraordinary material. This film offers an unsentimental and truly unique view into the fight against the jihadist militants in Al-Shabaab.

- Return of a President: After the Coup in Madagascar

DENMARK / 2017 / English / Color / Digital File / 78 min

Director, Photography: Lotte Mik-Meyer
Editing: Signe Rebekka Kaufmann, Stefan Sundlöf
Sound Design, Sound Mixing: Bobby Salomon Hess, Gido Martis, CosmoTone
Producers: Helle Ulsteen, Lise Lense-Møller

The democratically elected president of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, was ousted from his country after the 2009 military coup d’état, going into exile in South Africa. This film follows Ravalomanana as he attempts to return to his homeland amid threats of arrest and physical violence. Viewers are met with a careful exposé of African politics, including the geopolitically fascinating regional politics of the marginal African state, as well as the shrewd nature of French neocolonialism.