Let’s take a moment to look back. Within the ninety-one year legacy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which African films has it honored? An Oscar nomination is not the end-all in determining a film’s value; still, the on-going narrative of this award ceremony often reflects trends and changes in film culture, and the Academy does claim to be “the world’s preeminent movie related organization.” Historically, though, its lens hasn’t been wide enough. Here, we list the seven films nominated since 1927 that are both set in African countries AND directed by Africans. We also include a bit of biographical information about the filmmakers.
We then list the nominees for Best Director from this past year’s Africa Movie Academy Awards, a ceremony established in 2005 by Peace Anyiam-Osigwe, “aimed at facilitating the development and relevance of African film.” This list could function as a starting point in exploring contemporary African cinema, for those who are not yet dedicated followers, as well as an example of how diversity can exist within a single awards category. Find the full list of 2018 AMAA nominees here.
African Films Nominated for Oscars
Yesterday (2004): set in South Africa, directed by Darrell Roodt // Foreign Language Film category
Director, producer, and screenwriter Darrell Roodt was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has several dozen film credits including Mr. TNT (1985), Sarafina! (1992), and Lake Placid: Legacy (2018).
Tsotsi (2005): set in South Africa, directed by Gavin Hood // Foreign Language Film WINNER
Gavin Hood was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is an actor, producer, and director. His other credits include A Reasonable Man (1999), X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Eye in the Sky (2015).
Days of Glory/Indigènes (2006): set in French North Africa, directed by Rachid Bouchareb // Foreign Language Film category
Rachid Bouchareb was born in Paris, France to Algerian parents. He is a director, producer, and writer, known for Cheb (1991), Little Senegal (2000), and Belleville Cop (2018).
District 9 (2009): set in South Africa, directed by Neill Blomkamp // Film Editing, Best Picture, Visual Effects, and Writing (Adapted Screenplay) categories
Neill Blomkamp was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a director, producer, and writer, known for Elysium (2013) and Chappie (2015), with special effects and animation credits as well. He’s now based in Vancouver, Canada.
Outside the Law/Hors-la-loi (2010): set in Algeria and France, directed by Rachid Bouchareb // Foreign Language Film category
The Square (2013): set in Egypt, directed by Jehane Noujaim // Documentary (Feature) category
Raised in Cairo, Egypt, Jehane Noujaim is a documentary filmmaker known for Control Room (2004) and Startup.com (2001), as well as the hulu comedy series Ramy (2019). She has a TED talk titled “My wish: A global day of film” and is now based in New York, London, and Cairo.
Timbuktu (2014): set in Mali, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako // Foreign Language Film category
Abderrahmane Sissako is a director, producer, and writer born in Kiffa, Mauritania, now based in France. His other film credits include for Life on Earth (1998), Waiting for Happiness (2002), and Bamako (2006).
2018 AMAA Nominations for Best Director
Jade Osiberu: Isoken (2017), Nigeria
Jade Osiberu (with credits also under the name Jadesola Osiberu) is the founder of Tribe85 Productions, based in Lagos, Nigeria. She writes, directs, and produces.
Michael Mathews: Five Fingers For Marseilles (2017), South Africa
Michael Mathews founded Be Phat Motel Company alongside Sean Drummond in Cape Town, South Africa. He’s working on his second feature film Apocalypse Now Now and is represented by William Morris Endeavor & Management 360.
Frank Rajah Arase: In My Country (2018), Nigeria // WINNER
Frank Rajah Arase writes, produces, and directs. He’s based in Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana. His other film credits include Iyore (2015), Princess Tyra (2007), and Town in Danger (2003).
Sofia Djama: Les Bienheureux/The Blessed (2017), Algeria
Writer and filmmaker Sofia Djama was born in Oran, Algeria. Her short film Mollement, un samedi matin/Limply, One Saturday Morning (2012) was adapted from one of her early short stories. She’s represented by Zelig Agence Artistique et Littéraire and at work on a documentary and a short story collection.
Seyi Siwoku: Crossroads (2018), Nigeria
Seyi Siwoku started his career as a marine engineer and is now CEO of Jungle Filmworks, based in Lagos, Nigeria. He has directed and photographed many commercials, documentaries, and television shows.
Shemu Joyah: Road to Sunrise (2017), Malawi
Shemu Joyah is a self-trained filmmaker and writer, born in Zimbabwe to Malawian parents. He works as a land surveyor, real estate agent, and author in Malawi. His other film credits include Seasons of a Life (2010), The Last Fishing Boat (2012), and Mercy’s Blessing (2015).
Darrell Roodt: Siembamba (2017), South Africa
Akin Omotoso: Hotel Called Memory (2017), Nigeria
Director, producer, and writer Akin Omotoso grew up in Ife, Nigeria. His film credits include Blood Diamond (2006) and Tell Me Sweet Something (2015). He’s the founder of T.O.M. Pictures based in Cape Town, South Africa.
Peter Sedufia: Sidechic Gang (2018), Ghana
Peter Sedufia is a filmmaker based in Accra, Ghana. He graduated from the National Film and Television Institute and is director of Keteke (2017) and Master and 3 Maids.
Kenneth Gyang: The Lost Café (2017), Nigeria
Kenneth Gyang is a filmmaker from Plateau State, Nigeria. He is also director of Confusion Na Wa (2013) and the upcoming feature Òlòtūré. He founded Cinema Kpatakpata alongside Yinka Edward and Tom Rowlands-Rees.