Africa to the Oscars! – 2021 Oscar Submissions from Sub-Saharan Africa

“When we as Africans tell our own stories, we re-write the stories in the history books that our children are still taught in schools.” – Maimouna Jallow, Nairobi-based writer, journalist and storyteller.

According to Screen International, a record 12 African territories from Sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Africa and the Middle East have entered the race for the Best International Feature Film award at the 2021 Oscars. This is still low, given the entries represent just “22% of its 54 officially recognised states”!

This is the second year the award will be given under this title. It is defined as a feature-length motion picture produced outside the US, with a predominantly non-English dialogue track.

Here are six submissions from Sub-Saharan Africa for the 2021 Oscars, with links to the trailers and official film websites.

  1. Night of the Kings, Directed by Philippe Lacôte, Côte d’Ivoire.

This film follows a young man on his first night in the infamous Ivorian prison La Maca, tasked with telling stories to his inmates till dawn. Read my article on the film here and watch the trailer here.

The story revolves around an 80-year-old widow, mourning the death of her son, who leads the fight to save her village when it is threatened by the construction of a reservoir. Watch the trailer here.

This coming-of-age drama revolves around a young man who has been brought up with the belief that he will die aged 20! Filmed on the eve of Sudan’s 2019 popular revolution, which ended the 30-year dictatorship of President Omar al-Bashir, the film embodies the new era for the country and its filmmakers, and has won numerous awards. Watch the trailer here.

This is a magnificently shot contemporary thriller that explores the impact of Boko Haram insurgency on ordinary people in northern Nigeria, through the tale of two sisters who are kidnapped by extremist militants. With this film, Nigeria finally makes a proper Oscar play, after its first-ever submission Lionheart was disqualified in 2020 for containing too much English language dialogue, strange given English is Nigeria’s national language.  Watch behind the scenes from the movie here, and the trailer here.

  • The Letter, Directed by Maia Lekow and Christopher King, Kenya.

The documentary film investigates a modern-day witch hunt against a 95-year-old woman by her children, through her grandson who returns from the city to her rural village. Watch the trailer here.

  • Toorbos, Directed by Rene van Rooyen, South Africa.

Set against the 1930s decline of timber-trade communities in South Africa’s Knysna forest, the movie explores the uprooting of a young forest woman and her community, the last inhabitants of the forest. Watch the trailer here.

I hope you will be inspired to support cinema emerging from Sub-Saharan Africa. In the next instalment, I will share contenders from Northern Africa and Middle East.

This article is part of my Creative Spotlight series, weekly articles that will highlight and celebrate African creatives across art forms, and their resilience, strength and activism.

About Parminder Vir

Parminder Vir has dedicated herself to positively impacting and transforming lives through a professional career spanning 40 years in philanthropy, entrepreneurship, film and television production, arts and culture, and investment funding.

She served as the CEO of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Africa’s leading philanthropic organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria from April 2014 to April 2019. Prior to joining the Foundation, Parminder has enjoyed a distinguished career as an awarding winning film and television producer and private equity investor in film and media.

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