10 Evergreen Classic African Movies

This 1989 film was directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo, an African writer and director from Banfora (formerly Upper Volta) now Burkina Faso. His film highlights a theme that can be found throughout African cinema: the plight of African women. Though African men and women were once equal in antiquity, post-colonial modernity has led many to mistreat women through the use of a fabricated patriarchal system. In the film, Bila, a 10-year-old boy living in an African village, forms a bond with Sana, an elderly woman that the entire village has deemed a witch. Though the people of the village try to drive her away, Sana, who Bila refers to as ‘Yaaba’ (grandmother) manages to heal Nopoko, Bila’s cousin, after she falls ill. Throughout the movie, we find that Sana is perhaps the kindest individual in the village, yet the most mistreated.


Directed by Ousmane Sembène, a Senegalese filmmaker who many refer to as the father of African Cinema, Moolaadé tells the story of the struggle between tradition and modernity. When Collé Gallo Ardo Sy grants “moolaadé,” or spiritual protection, to a group of girls to protect them from the traditional, yet sometimes fatal, act of genital mutilation, she brings about a divide within her village. Though she suffers the consequences, she stands her ground.



The 2000 film, Lumumba, was directed by Raoul Peck, a director and writer born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Patrice Lumumba was an African political leader who became the first president of the Republic of the Congo after the country’s independence. The docudrama depicts the last few months of Lumumba’s life leading up to his 1961 assassination.


La Noire de…

Ousmane Sembène’s La Noire de…, or Black Girl, was the first sub-Saharan African film to receive international recognition. The 1966 film tells the story of Diouana, a Senegalese woman, who journeys from Dakar, Senegal, to Antibes, France, to work as a nanny and lead a fun lifestyle. However, upon her arrival, the rich French couple that hired her forced her to be a full servant. This film explores the concepts of race, labor, and exploitation.



Based in the Malian Empire of the 13th century, Souleyman Cissé’s Yeelen, also known asBrightness, tells the story of Niankoro, a young man whose powers are feared by his father, Soma, a priest that allowed himself to be corrupted by his own powers. After his father sets out to halt his spiritual quest, Niankoro must utilize his spiritual gifts and the earth’s powers to defeat his father and free himself. Through this 1987 film, Souleyman Cissé, a famous Malian film director, speaks to the ideals of African spirituality.




Directed by Izu Ojukwu, a Nigerian film director, Sitanda highlights the tales of Amanzee and Ann, a couple with a troubled marriage, and Sitanda, and ancestor of Ann’s, alongside each other. When Ann leaves her abusive husband and returns home, she is given the opportunity to mend her relationship with her father. There, she learns about her family’s past and the story of Sitanda, a man who had been taken and made a slave in his adolescence. This film reveals the evils of greed, power, and deception.



Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi speaks to Africa’s potential future. The Kenyan sci-fi film describes what Africa would be like 35 years after WWIII, the war on water. The movie focuses on the scientific quest of Asha, a museum curator who escapes her isolated Nairobian community to find the original source of fertile soil that she received in the mail. While roaming the outside desert, she looks for a tree that appeared to her in a dream. For, if she plants the “mighty seed,” she may be able to change the world for the better.

Sometimes in april

Sometimes in April

Written and directed by Raoul Peck, Sometimes in April tells the story of Augustin, a Hutu soldier, and his efforts to get his family and, ultimately, himself to safety during the 1994 Rwandan genocides. The movie also provides future scenes of his brother’s trial regarding his war crimes. The film tackles the subjects of neo-colonialism, civil war, and family.



Emitaï, directed by Ousmane Sembène, addresses the racial oppression endured by the African’s of West Africa. The 1971 film portrays the true story of the tension and conflict that arose between the native Diola-speaking Africans of the land and the French imperialists during World War II when the native’s refused to fight “the white man’s war.” The film also speaks to the strength of African religion, spirituality, manhood, and womanhood.


Kini & Adams

Directed by Idrissa Ouedraogo, Kini & Adams highlights the friendship between two Zimbabwean men and their mission to repair a wrecked car in the hope of leaving their lives behind for the big city. Ouedraogo utilizes his film to define the meaning of true friendship, as the bond between Kini and Adams is troubled by the women in their lives and their own desires.


Written by PH

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