Throughout the past ten years Africa has featured heavily in
the media for reasons and this was mirrored by a strong presence in film. We
take a look at some highlights from the noughties, a decade that saw some truly
great films that were set in the colourful continent of Africa.
Based on the real life atrocities
of 1994 Rwanda, this award winning drama stars Don Cheadle as a hotelier whose
courage and endeavour helped save well over a thousand Rwandan citizens during
a Genocide that claimed almost a million lives in a matter of months. Joaquin
Phoenix and Jean Reno made up part of the strong cast in this
critically-acclaimed, powerful drama.
This shocking drama tackles the
issue of female circumcision, still prevalent in some parts of Africa today.
When a village chooses to protect the girls due for the shocking and dangerous
procedure from being operated on, she must withstand the consequences.
Moolaade, meaning magical protection, was a double winner at the 2004 Cannes
Film Festival in what proved to a great year for African based dramas with such
films Hotel Rwanda and Yesterday also bring African issues to the fore.
The 2006 Oscar winner for Best
Foreign Language Film of the Year, South African based Tsotsi brilliantly shows
a week in the life of a Johannesburg slum-dwelling teenager. Tsotsi is forced
to change his selfish and destructive approach to life when he hijacks a car,
shooting the driver in the process, only to find the wounded woman’s baby on
the back seat. The film manages to convey the bleak and uncompromising
struggles and realities of slum life, while at the same time creating a complex
and believable lead character as Tsotsi becomes attached and empathetic towards
the baby he inadvertently comes to care for.
Constant Gardener (2005)
City of God
director Fernando Meirelles made his English language debut with this
adaptation of John le Carré’s novel. Ralph Fiennes stars as his British
diplomat who uncovers a web of drug company corruption when his wife his found
dead, in a film which raises important and timely issues about the way Western
corporation exploit Africa.
Robert Zwick’s 2006 5 times Oscar nominated
movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio as former soldier – turned dealer in conflict
diamonds, Danny Archer. Archer’s pursuit of valuable diamonds sees him link up
with village man Solomon Vardy, played by Djimon Hounsou, whose search for his
son brings him up against the rebels that took him and ravaged his village. The
film manages to tackle a controversial issue whilst maintaining an exciting
plot brought to life through solid performances.
Last King of Scotland (2006)
Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for his portrayal of
Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in this powerful drama. The genius of the film is
that we see everything from the point of view of naive British doctor James
MaAvoy. Like MacAvoy, we are charmed by the by eccentric Amin, and when we
discover the atrocities he is responsible for it is even more shocking.
Dennis Haysbert and Joseph Fiennes starred in this tale
of the relationship between Nelson Mandela and his prison guard James Gregory,
based on Gregory’s memoirs. There has been some controversy over how well
Gregory actually knew Mandela, but it’s stirring, inspiring stuff none the
less, with great performances all round.
Neill Blomkamp was handed picked by Peter Jackson to
direct the big budget adaptation of hit videogame Halo, but when that fell
apart he instead made this modern sci-fi classic about aliens being ushered
into ghettos in Johannesburg. The political metaphors are clear for all to see,
but it’s also a cracking action film to boot.
Clint Eastwood directed this adaptation of John Carlin’s
book Playing the Enemy which detailed
how the 1995 Rugby World Cup brought South Africa together after the apartheid.
Morgan Freedman is superb as Nelson Mandela, though there is some very clumsy
exposition of the rules of rugby shoehorned in for American audiences.
Directed by Claire Denis,
White Material stars Isabelle Hupert as Maria, the owner of a coffee
plantation, who refuses to abandon her harvest amid growing tensions between
the army and the rebels that rove the African countryside. Just like her
father-in-law and her ex-husband (Christophe Lambert), who is also the father
of her son, she is convinced that Cherif, mayor of the neighbouring town, will
protect them. If she asks him, he will save the plantation. Isabelle Huppert
was nominated for a Golden Lion at the 2009 Venice Film Festival for her
captivating performance in this both beautiful and stirring film.
Material is released on DVD & Blu-ray December 6th.