Did you ever play the “Mommy-daddy” game of mimicking the marriage and wedding ceremonies as a child? I believe with all my heart this is where the creativity of film making was born! The ability to create art from simple acts of play and boom! You see, it took a lot to pull off our childhood games even though our little minds then did not vision the magnitude of what was happening around us. First off you needed a script, a director, the crew , the cast , the props , the stage, proper lighting , soundtracks among many others , tell me this wasn’t film making and I will pack my bags!

Lights! Camera! Action! And like a baby, a film is born. The severing of the umbilical cord is when the film is ‘cut’ away from the producers to the distributers. Days, weeks and months go by then comes the ikon Awards, or the Golden Globes, Tonys, et al. Once in a while, there is a rarity like the sighting of hen’s teeth that befalls a gods-chosen actor or director or person that worked on a project in the form of a man known only as Oscar. Outside of Jesus, there is no other man that multi-talented and eye wateringly rich humans gather in a room to receive with palpable anticipation like Oscar. That’s the end or the nearest-to-the-end of a project before another cycle starts. 

NO.  So, let’s start from the beginning. 

Film is a multifaceted medium that combines visual art, storytelling and technology to create an immersive experience. 

In Africa, commonly called African Cinema, it is the visual narrative created by Africans, primarily screenwriters, filmmakers, other film professionals and financiers, about themselves and their stories. These stories’ focus is history, politics and sociology on the continent. Film is a reflection on the continent’s rich cultural heritage, social issues and the dynamic spirit of its people. 

Africans are natural-born storytellers. We have been telling our histories and politics and ancient wisdoms way before the Westerners arrived at Africa’s doorstep and invited themselves in. The only difference was that we told our stories orally and we trusted our memory enough not to record what was said. (Humble brag)

It is argued that the use of King Ramses II (in color) in 1954 in Egypt was the first authentic African film. There is talk of earlier times of using film for propaganda in North & West Africa around the 1930s. African cinema began with foreign filmmakers making documentaries and ethnographic films with a skewed perspective of Africa. It was not long after that African filmmakers decided and started to tell African stories from an African perspective themed around anti-colonialism and cultural identity. 

We cannot talk African cinema without making mention of Ousmane Sembène of Senegal and Med Hondo of Mauritania – pioneers of our visual storytelling. The post-independence era saw the emergence of pockets of film industries by countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa. West Africa built Nollywood in Nigeria and West African countries merged to form Francophone Cinema. North Africa has Egyptian Cinema which is so old that Cairo was once dubbed the ‘Hollywood of the East.’ South African Cinema is one of the most vibrant while the East African films have also grown some teeth to have a bite-sized share of the proverbial lion. 

By and large, it appears that the African population appreciatesvisual storytelling especially one that’s on themes of colonialism (pre and post), social justice, cultural identity, traditional stories, spirituality without leaving out comedy and romance – the gods be damned if we forget to laugh and love. 

With the advent of digital technology, everything as we once knew it has been revolutionized and African Cinema is in that number. Maybe after us, the people, our films would have only been heard about by the trees in the forests we visited or the crops in the gardens we tended but now a good number of them have received international recognition being included in global film festivals and listed on award categories. Many films have been taken up by distribution giants like Netflix which provide nearly untold viewership. 

Besides preserving heritage and shaping identity, film is a great vehicle to address social issues like poverty and human rights. Film provides a platform for education and awareness campaigns, job creation and tourism with advocacy and activism to boot. 

African cinema might have started out to speak to uninvited guests and their ills but watching a movie today, at home or at the cinema, has proven to be one of the ways through which we can initiate new people into our lives. Film storylines are good conversation starters, the different genres are good gauges of interest similarities and have sometimes been used by self-confessed sapiosexuals as gauges of intelligence. Rad, right? For the glass half-full people, forget the lights and camera, a film could get you some action. Happy watching.