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Afrocritik Best 15 African Films that Streamed in 2022

Afrocritik Best 15 African Films that Streamed in 2022

Afrocritik Best 15 African Films that Streamed in 2022

By Vivian Nneka Nwajiaku, Blessing Chinwendu Nwankwo, Sybil Fekurumoh, and Ijeoma Ntada

Afrocritik Best 15 African Films that Streamed in 2022
Afrocritik Best 15 African Films that Streamed in 2022

Thanks to the growing hunger for African content and the search for new markets by the world powers in the global film industry, 2021 saw multiple deals between African filmmakers and international production companies, especially streaming services. 2022 saw many of those deals come to life, and then many more deals get inked.

Expectedly, streaming platforms are the major vehicles for the films and shows that result from these deals. With Africa’s grossly inadequate number of screens, rising cost of tickets, and greater insecurity resulting in less mobility across the continent, theatres have become so much more inaccessible, giving even more space for streaming to thrive.

We can only hope the cinema culture gets resurrected. But for now, streaming is how most people are watching their movies, especially since most films end up on streaming platforms after their theatrical runs. So, this year, Afrocritik is paying special attention to streaming. The Afrocritik Board on Film has cast its votes and decided that these films are the best of Africa that streaming had to offer in 2022.

Some of these African films, like Eyimofe, excited critics much more than they did audiences. Some, such as Silverton Siege and Aníkúlápó, excited audiences more. Others are favourites of both critics and audiences, like For Maria Ebun Pataki. A few of them premiered this year, but most are older, including the twelve-year-old gem, Soul Boy. But we hope you see all of them in the same way we do: as triumphant African films that are just as relevant now as they were when they were first released.

15. Aloe Vera – Ghana

Initial Release: March 2020

Now Streaming: Netflix

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Peter Sedufia’s Aloe Vera is a Ghanaian Romeo and Juliet story, but this time, the fight isn’t between the Montagues and the Capulets. It’s between the Aloes and the Veras, two very small communities that live apart from each other because of a heated disagreement between them. In fact, the film is so much of a satire that the disagreement is said to have stemmed from that great unanswerable riddle: Between the chicken and the egg, which came first? However, two youngsters from both sides of the feuding communities fall in love.

Of course, the Aloe and Vera families are willing to do whatever it takes to prevent the love between Aloewin (Aaron Adatsi) and Veralin (Alexandra Ayirebi-Acquah) from blossoming. But expectedly, the young and passionate lovers fight against all odds to be together and to reunite their warring families. It’s cliché and illogical and many things that the Shakespeare legend isn’t. But it’s also a surprisingly interesting rom-com that will make you laugh and swoon over the sheer beauty of young love. And sometimes, that’s really all we want to do.

14. Nafsi – Kenya

Initial Release: November 2021

Now Streaming: Netflix

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Touching on a variety of subjects many of which are somewhat alien to the African film audience, Reuben Odanga’s debut film, Nafsi, explores practically everything and anything, from surrogacy to homosexuality and power dynamics in relationships. But its strongest theme is that of female friendships, with the film creatively balancing the beauty of sisterhood on one hand and the potential for sour relationships and betrayal on the other. In this film, Mumbi Maina takes on the role of Aisha, a woman whose utmost desire is to experience the joy of motherhood but whose medical conditions prevent her from carrying a pregnancy to term.

Things begin to look up for her when her best friend (played by Catherine Kamau) volunteers to be her surrogate. This grand offer which starts out on an altar of friendship and empathy turns out to be a tool in the destruction of their friendship. Somewhere in all of this is also a lesson in “everything that glitters is not gold.” Yet, its suspense and unpredictability make the one too many themes feel forgivable. And its effort in bringing oft-ignored issues to the front burner deserves some appreciation.

13. Aníkúlápó– Nigeria

Initial Release: September, 2022

Now Streaming: Netflix

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Kunle Afolayan’s latest Netflix original, Aníkúlápó, trended for weeks after its release. And rightly so. Viewers had conflicted reactions to the movie, and very few Nollywood movies have stirred up as many different conversations as Aníkúlápó did. The Yoruba epic film follows Saro (played by Kunle Remi), an aso-ofi weaver, who arrives in pre-colonial Oyo Kingdom with just the right amount of luck and misfortune. He finds success as a weaver, becomes a wily paramour (Bimbo Ademoye plays one of Saro’s lovers), and after obtaining the power to subdue death, becomes overcome by greed.

But that’s as far as it goes, a linear movie that stretches on forever. Still, Aníkúlápó passes as a fable that delivers a lesson in hubris as an ultimate tragedy, and is commendable for the quality of its production, the performances of its actors, the cultural richness on screen and its special quality as a conversation starter.

12. Binti – Tanzania

Initial Release: March 2021

Now Streaming: Netflix

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Four Tanzanian women stand in for womankind in Seko Shamte’s tale of womanhood, Binti, a geographically-specific film that’s as universal as they come. Telling their story one after the other, with each woman dealing with the pains of the life the previous woman longs for, Shamte walks us through the lives of her characters as they persevere through the loneliness and difficulties that come as a package deal with womanhood.

Shamte’s characters remind you of women you know; whether it’s the daughter whose father left, or the woman whose partner beats her, or the wife who wants to be a mother but struggles with infertility, or the mother who has to sacrifice everything for her family.

They are all the same woman, beaten down by societal hurdles, yet managing to find a way to live. But they are also different women, dealing with the pains and joys of womanhood in their own very different ways.

11. Country Hard – Nigeria

Initial Release: November 11, 2021

Now Streaming: Prime Video

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When destinies are intertwined by fate, it is rather mysterious how the paths of total strangers can cross. A debut feature by Paul Utomi who also writes and acts in the film, Country Hard digs into this phenomenon, zigzagging through a day in the lives of seven individuals who share in the sea of sadness that they perceive their country to be. Country Hard delves into multifaceted suffering that is all too familiar, and it handles that suffering with authenticity. A mother loses her child. Another child is dying because his family cannot afford treatment.

A man who has nothing else is at the verge of losing the woman he loves. Another man is on the verge of taking his own life. While all the characters being interlinked can feel like too much of a coincidence, their relatability surely leaves a mark. Maybe because we understand their frustrations. Country really is hard.

10. Silverton Siege – South Africa

Initial Release: April 2022

Now Streaming: Netflix

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Netflix’s Silverton Siege makes Afrocritik Best 15 African Films that Streamed in 2022 list. It might be too Americanised for a film that was inspired by real-life events that occurred in Apartheid South Africa in 1980, but there’s no denying its relevance to the action film branch of the film industry across Africa. For a genre that very few African films have excelled in (why action films are so difficult to pull off in African film industries is a story for another day), director Mandla Walter Dube shows the kind of capacity we want to see in action films from the continent.

Plus, it’s held up by strong acting on the part of its major cast, especially its three leads, Thabo Rametsi, Nxolo Dlamini and Stefan Erasmus, who play the freedom-fighting trio that laid siege to a bank in Silverton and turned a hostage situation into a negotiating opportunity for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. You don’t want to take your history lessons from this film, but it’s a solid hostage drama with interesting stakes and more than decent action.

9. La Femme Anjola – Nigeria

Initial Release: March 2021

Now Streaming: Prime Video

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A Nigerian film noir directed by Mildred Okwo, La Femme Anjola is one of Nollywood’s most distinct films of recent times. Rita Dominic renders a commanding performance as Anjola, the titular femme fatale. And Nonso Bassey, in his first major role in a feature, matches Dominic’s screen power at every point as the overconfident, yet naive, Dejare Johnson, a high-performing stockbroker who falls in love with Anjola and takes big risks to be her knight in shining armour.

With a thrilling plot as the backdrop, Okwo manages to portray gender politics from a feminist POV, using the antithetical femme fatale trope. We share in Anjola’s irritation when she asks in one scene, “What is it about me that makes guys think I need saving?” But we also know what Dejare sees. We see that she’s trouble and that she can probably save herself. But we, too, want to save Anjola.

8. The Girl in the Yellow Jumper – Uganda

Initial Release: April 2020

Now Streaming: Netflix

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The Girl in the Yellow Jumper has a few firsts wrapped around its waist. It’s the first feature from Loukman Ali who wears many hats as director, producer and writer. It’s also the first Ugandan film on Netflix. The expectations were not entirely high, but the film exceeds expectations in more ways than one. The thriller follows a hitchhiker (Michael Wawuyo Jr) who hitches a ride with a policeman (Maurice Kirya) after escaping from his abductor who happens to be a girl in a yellow jumper (Rahema Nanfuka).

When asked how he sustained his injuries, the hitchhiker has a literally unbelievable story to tell. The Girl in the Yellow Jumper keeps you engaged, motivated by the eagerness to discern what is real from what isn’t. It’s excited filmmaking on a budget. It’s also an interesting and confident debut that thrives on improbabilities. And not many films can pull that off.

7. Breaded Life – Nigeria

Initial Release: April 2021

Now Streaming: Netflix

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Nightmares are frightening enough already, but imagine waking up to one. At first glance, Breaded Life comes off as yet another version of the over-flogged “pride comes before a fall” trope, but it takes a different and rather remarkable, unpredictable twist. The story follows a snobbish “rich kid” who awakens to a world where nobody remembers him, save for a bread seller, forcing him to confront his privilege and navigate his new “street life” reality.

Writer-director, Biodun Stephen, directs an excellent cast led by Bimbo Ademoye and Timini Egbuson, and weaves her story in a commendable unique and thought-provoking style. Breaded Life interrogates social class groups, and reveals that regardless of social conditions, humanity prevails. It’s a heart-warming and poignant story that sends a powerful message about privilege, growth, and the importance of family and community in overcoming adversity. It’s simply a must-see for anyone interested in contemporary African cinema.

6. For Maria Ebun Pataki – Nigeria

Initial Release: November 2020

Now Streaming: Netflix

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For Maria Ebun Pataki explores postpartum depression, a disorder that many mothers face but which is rarely spoken about because of the fear of societal judgement and the anxiety of not being a good mother. It follows the story of a new mother who experiences complications with her pregnancy both in the delivery room and afterwards. Meg Otanwa plays the role of Derin, the new mother suffering from post-partum depression, and it’s amazing how the actor lets herself drown in believable depression. But it’s not just her. It’s the entire cast.

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It’s Tina Mba’s portrayal of the irritated, yet loving, mother-in-law. It’s Gabriel Afolayan as the frustrated but patient husband. And it’s the attentiveness and genuine care of writer-director Damilola Orimogunje and his co-writer, Tunray Femi. In this debut feature, Orimogunje informs and submerges his audience, delivering his affecting message with subtlety and allowing viewers to feel with his characters.

5. Trees of Peace – USA/Rwanda

Initial Release: April 2021

Now Streaming: Netflix

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An American indie production with a Rwandan lead (Eliane Umuhire) and a heart-wrenching Rwandan story, Trees of Peace is about four women confined in a storage room during the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, and a young husband risking everything to help keep them alive. Oftentimes, when the bleak history of a place is revisited, victims are discussed collectively, and their individuality forgotten. But with Trees of Peace, writer-director Alanna Brown explores these women’s individual struggle for survival amidst the genocide and the innate will to stay alive, regardless of the side of the conflict we may find ourselves.

We are drawn to empathise with the victims as real people that battle their present situations, how their aspirations make them hopeful, and how they are able to reconcile their pasts. The real take-home here is finding the strength to heal and to forgive even the perpetrators of the worst kind of crimes.

4. Juju Stories – Nigeria

Initial Release: August 2021

Now Streaming: Prime Video

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Juju Stories will probably be a hard sell for non-Nigerian audiences because of how deeply rooted it is in Nigerian folklore and urban legends, and how little it cares about explaining itself to foreign audiences. But this anthology film, made by an indie filmmaking collective known as Surreal16, excellently plays on the nostalgia of its principal audience. And it does this with originality and naturalness. It has three short stories it calls chapters, all of which are produced by Oge Obasi.

Each chapter has its own writer-director with his own unique approach — from the Michael Omonua-directed “Love Potion” to Abba Makama’s “Yam” to C.J. Obasi’s “Suffer the Witch.” But they have the same artistic vision and share the same core: authentic Nigerianess, desperate characters, unexplainable events, and well-directed leads that deliver some of the best performances of their careers. Need convincing? Look no further than Nengi Adoki’s Joy, the insidious smiling witch in Obasi’s chapter.

3. Soul Boy – Kenya

Initial Release: March 2010

Now Streaming: Netflix

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A fourteen-year-old boy (a committed but wavering Samson Odhiambo) wakes up from a nightmare to find an even bigger nightmare: his father’s soul has been taken by a strange woman with a reputation for taking the souls of men. To retrieve his father’s soul, he must successfully perform certain tasks somewhat heavy for a boy his age. Without a moment’s thought, the teen starts to run about town, with his sharp-witted girlfriend (a delightful Leila Dayan Opou), doing what he needs to in order to save his father.

In Soul Boy, Hawa Essuman delivers a coming-of-age journey of sorts that’s as charming as it is exciting to follow. Watching the youngster grow through his unusual circumstance is very much satisfying, especially against the backdrop of a humble and unassuming town where the mystical is comfortably situated with the very real and regular world.

2. The Milkmaid – Nigeria

Initial Release: November 2020

Now Streaming: Prime Video

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Desmond Ovbiagele’s The Milkmaid, Nigeria’s first eligible submission to the Oscars, is so sensitive a terrorism-themed film that the NFVCB reportedly had some of the film’s content cut before it could be released in theatres. Its unflinching portrayal of religious extremism was bound to cause a stir in a country that consistently favours censorship and is divided by religion. Ambitious and daring, The Milkmaid gets very close to the terrorists it studies, close enough to understand and humanise them, but also close enough to call out their hypocrisies. Yet, its greatest achievement is its femicentric approach.

The story is about a Fulani milkmaid (played by Anthonieta Kalunta) who is abducted by terrorists, escapes from them, but returns to them in search of her sister. And in all it does, The Milkmaid prioritises its women, cautiously exposing the harrowing experiences of women and girls in the midst of violent conflicts.

1. Eyimofe: This Is My Desire Nigeria

Initial Release: October 2020

Now Streaming: HBO Max and Prime Video

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Afrocritik called it “an ever-relevant interrogation of the pressing reasons to japa.But what Eyimofe really is, is a love letter to the average Nigerian, in  the proud way that it portrays their tired but resilient spirit, the intentional way that it captures the broken system alongside the beauty of people, and in how alive and honest it is, without becoming poverty porn.

Set in Lagos, Eyimofe follows Mofe and Rosa, two struggling Nigerians connected only by their shared lower-class neighbourhood and their desire to emigrate to Europe. The film is so understated and unfolds with such quietness that directly contrasts with the bustling city that serves as its backdrop. No wonder it made Afrocritik Best 15 African Films that Streamed in 2022.

And yet, its essence is clearly identifiable. Plus, in Jude Akwudike’s Mofe and Temi Ami-Williams’ Rosa, we see people we recognise. This multi award-winning indie film is Chuko and Arie Esiri’s debut feature, and it’s an indisputable success story.

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