6 Female African Filmmakers Redefining African Cinema

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Filmmaking in Africa has revolutionized the world’s view of Africa and Africans as a whole. In comparison to Hollywood’s century-long operation, African cinema has gone through a slower progression since its pre and post-colonial days. The Nigerian Film Industry, famously known as Nollywood, is one of Africa’s thriving film industries and the second-largest globally. The Nigerian Film industry boasts of churning out thousands of films weekly through local streaming platforms and digital video discs. Other African film industries have had even relatively slower progression rates and global recognition in comparison to that of Nigeria. This is attributed to poor cinema culture, socio-political climate, and economic standings. The global film industry can be considered to be a male-dominated industry, with male key players having better opportunities to tell the stories they wish to. Nevertheless, there are numerous African filmmakers working hard to paint clearer pictures of their country to the world. Here’s a list of six Female African filmmakers using film as means to tell untold African stories.

 

Kuukua Eshun

 

 Ghanaian Kuukua Eshun is a multi-award-winning filmmaker, writer, poet, and entrepreneur at the forefront of the Ghanaian and African filmmaking scene. Her portfolio is robust with clientele like Wizkid, Vic Mensa, Facebook, Variety Magazine, etc. For Kuukua, storytelling forms the basis of her projects. The experimental filmmaker is driven by a desire to tell authentic stories, many of which are born from a simple, compelling poem. Her collection of short films and journal visual pieces all share Kuukua’s ability to express love, loss, humanity, and the complexities of human emotions. Her 2020 experimental short film Artist, Act of Love has numerous awards to its name including Best Director, Best Experimental Short Film, Best Cinematography, and Best Romantic Short. Her films have been officially selected by the European film festival, The African Film Festival, and African Women Arts & Film Festival (AWAFFEST).

The Columbus State College alum is also the co-founder of Ghanaian-based production company, Shoot Your Reality.  The femme-led production house shoots commercials, films, music videos, and corporate videos for Africans worldwide.

 

Remi Vaughan-Richards

Remi Vaughan-Richards is a Nigerian director, costumier, and storyboarder who combines her love for filmmaking with preserving cultural heritage. The Nigerian-born – London-schooled filmmaker is the daughter of British-Nigerian postcolonial architect Alan Richards and Nurse educator Ayo Vaughan. 

Her film career began in 1990 as a costume designer making sculptural costumes for sci-fi fantasy and period films in Hollywood. It wasn’t long before the eccentric filmmaker worked her way into the art department of critically acclaimed films such as Danny Cannon’s original Judge Dredd (1995), and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999). As a descendant of one of Lagos’ most prominent families, Vaughan-Richards, the filmmaker is dedicated to preserving family culture and heritage through her films. Her multi award- winning documentary Faaji Agba (2015), a six-year journey following seven, 68-85yr old Yoruba master musicians in Lagos, was a successful attempt at spotlighting Lagos’ forgotten history. That dedication is married with her mission to create avant-garde feature films and documentaries that will focus a sharp lens on contemporary Africa. 

The  Royal College of Art alum has gone on to direct Scent of the Streets, a documentary on area girls in Lagos, Nigeria, for BBC News and TV Drama Wetin Dey for BBC World Service Trust in Nigeria. Her 2020 documentary, The Lost Legacy of Bida Bikini on the Masagá glassmakers of Bida is now resident on the British Museum website. Her work spans disciplines; commercials, documentaries, and dramas. 

Wanuri Kahiu

Wanuri Kahiu is a Kenyan film director, producer, and author whose filmmaking career began by interning for F. Gary Gray’s office in the early 2000s. The internship allowed her to work on the production of his 2003 film The Italian Job. In 2006 she made her directing debut with a behind-the-scenes documentary The Spark that Unites. The documentary focused on Derek Luke and his preparation for the role of Patrick Chamusso, a South African guerilla fighter in Phillip Noyce’s 2006 film Catch A Fire. 

Later that year the filmmaker also released her debut narrative film, Ras Star, a short drama about the musical ambitions of a rapping teenager who becomes involved with criminal practices in Nairobi. It didn’t take long for Kanuri to become a multi-award-winning director. Further honing her skills and taking a chance on filmmaking, Kahiu released her debut feature film in 2008, Whisper, which went on to win five awards at the 2009 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). 

She took a step further in ensuring authentic Kenyan stories were told by releasing the first LGBTQ film in Kenya. The 2018 film titled Rafiki is about two lesbians who fall in love despite the illegality of their romance in Kenya. Aside from the film being banned by the Kenyan government, it was also the first Kenyan film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. 

The Rafiki director also directed the film adaptation of Ali Benjamin’s 2015 novel The Thing About Jellyfish. The 2021 film was written for the screen by Orange Is The New Black and Shameless writer Molly Smith Metzler, and also starred Millie Bobby Brown as the lead actor.  

 

Christa Eka Assam 

Christa Eka Assam is a Cameroonian writer, director, producer, and actress. Before breaking into directing, the filmmaker’s maiden interest lay in acting. After spending years studying accounting, she turned to cinema and modeling with her debut film role in Break In (2005). She made her debut short film, Doormat (2012), which was selected into the Durban Talent Campus later that year. Her second short film Beleh (2013), screened in over 20 international film festivals and earned her two awards including a ZAFAA Award for Best Short Film in London in 2013 and a Special Jury Mention at the 2013 Africa International Film Festival in Calabar, Nigeria. 

The Cameroonian film industry is a relatively small industry, with its filmmakers drawing from thriving industries such as Nollywood and Hollywood. That said, Assam’s filmmaking was distinct from the local Hollywoodized films which were mainstream. Her 2015 award-winning short film Alma, which told the story of a young woman living with her husband in a fishing village, and battling domestic abuse, is widely acknowledged as one of Cameroon’s best short films to date. The short film was directed by Assam and featured her as one of the lead characters alongside Nchifor Valery and Collins Ketcha.

Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim

Nigerian producer, screenwriter, and director Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim is one of the filmmakers at the forefront of queer Nollywood. Gaining traction in 2020 for her controversial directorial debut, Ife, the filmmaker has burst into the limelight as an LGBTQ filmmaker. While Ife isn’t the first film to feature queer characters, it is one of the first films to openly embrace lesbians and the dynamics of a lesbian relationship. 

Ever since the year-long battle between the producers, Uyaiedu Ikpe-Etim and Pamela Aide, and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NVFCB), Ikpe-Etim has been perceived as a visual mouthpiece for Nigerian queer stories. The romantic short tells the story of ìfé and Adaora, two Nigerian women who fall in love over a three-day date, but their love is soon tested by the realities of being lesbian in Nigeria.

The Nigerian Film Industry which is already known for its jaw-dropping drama and homey stories currently lacks the inclusivity Hollywood boasts of.  The BBC 100 women for 2020 nominee is a frontrunner in telling queer Nigerian stories for Africans worldwide. 

 

Kemiyondo Coutinho 

Kemiyondo Coutinho Los Angeles-based Ugandan playwright, actress, and filmmaker. She made her way into the film industry with her directorial debut Kyenvu. The twenty-minute 2018 short film which is “An unexpected love affair is formed at a taxi stop in Uganda and is forever changed by a wardrobe choice” (Toronto Black Film Festival) won the Oscar Qualifying award for Best Short Film at the Pan African Film Festival in 2018 making it the first Ugandan film to ever qualify for an Oscar. 

Kemiyondo now owns and runs her own production company, Kemistry Klass. The company aims are churning out world-class productions of award-winning African films.

 


Kikachi Memeh is a film/Tv writer, occasional bookworm, and devoted hobby-hopper based in Lagos and Vancouver. When she isn’t spending most of her time sending pitches to publications that ignore her constantly, she’s painting semi-good art pieces at home.

 

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