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Friday, November 18, 2022



(“Guerrilla Garden” directed by Omelga Mthiyane)

Durban director Omelga Mthiyane's short documentary to be presented in Africa Direct Series on Al Jazeera English in December/January.

Durban director, Omelga Mthiyane is one of two South African filmmakers whose short documentaries will be presented in a slate of 14 films from nine African countries in the second season of Africa Direct on Al Jazeera English Documentaries from December 6, 2022.

Mthiyane directed the film Guerrilla Garden which shows how a guerrilla gardening collective not only provides food but also an important sense of belonging for the residents of Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Residents plant, harvest, sell or exchange produce. This is a community built on the spirit of agency, self-help and action in the face of huge social and environmental problems.

(Right: Omelga Mthiyane)

The other South African filmmaker is Nadine Angel Cloete whose The Last Speaker, champions a disappearing tongue as Claudia Snyman, a language researcher, tries to save the N/UU language from extinction. She works to create a dictionary with her grandmother, Katrina Esau, who is the last living fluent speaker of this ancient San, or Bushman, language, believed to be 25,000 years old.

Season Two of Africa Direct follows the success of the first season in 2021, and presents another 14 episodes of short documentaries, made by Africans about Africans. They provide a vivid and fascinating look into the diversity of ordinary people on the continent. Whether they are unsung heroes, change champions or simply getting on with their lives, they are all agents in their own stories.

This year, the countries represented include Mali, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Mozambique. AJE welcomes back some alumni directors as well as new ones to the fold.

From Mali comes two compelling short documentaries: First Dance Steps: Don Sen Folo by award-winning previous Africa Direct documentary filmmaker Ousmane Zoromé Samassékou, who takes us into the creative world of a Malian contemporary dance company as they take inspiration from ancient ancestral moves for their modern choreography.

The second Mali film Medine, The Heritage by another Africa Direct alumni filmmaker, Andrey S Diarra, follows Bréhima Sissoko, a heritage guide at the Fort of Medine in the Kayes region of Mali. For nearly three decades he has worked to preserve this historical site and is now training his son to take over.

From Rwanda comes A Legacy by filmmaker Mutiganda Wa Nkunda about the revival of the Amasunzu hairstyle, an eye-catching traditional style of extraordinary shapes, crests and partings, worn as a form of identity in pre-colonial times.

Feeling the Game by Samuel Ishimwe follows Leonidas Ndayisaba a sports journalist in Kigali, who is almost blind. We see him in action, from pitch-side interviews to his radio show, unfolding the story of a man who doesn’t let his disability define or stop him in his dedication to sport in his country.

From Ghana, Studio Of Archives by Benjamin Kent follows Ibrahim Mahama, an internationally-acclaimed artist, known for his monumental installations, as he works, collecting artefacts and textiles for his installations, which explore the significance of historical memory through everyday objects.

A young bright 12 year-old Mozambican Luciano Armindo features in Giant Little Choppers, a delightful film by JJ Nota, that looks at this boy’s fascination for engineering and his remarkable hobby - he collects cardboard and wire scraps and meticulously designs and builds life size models of helicopters and cars outside his home.

Kenya Ice Lions by Moses Obuye follows the action of Benjamin Mburu, captain and assistant coach of the Ice Lions, the only ice hockey team in east and central Africa, which had competed internationally until the pandemic hit. He rallies the skaters and finds innovative ways to keep their skills, and the team’s finance, alive.

Also from Kenya, Conservation From Above by Rahab Wambui witnesses Daniel Zuma, a surveillance pilot in Kasigau Corridor conservation area. He also does on-the ground work in conservation, including with local communities in which he grew up, conveying an important conservation message and leaving a legacy to pass on.

Nigerian filmmaker, Dorcas Sheffy Bello’s A Stone Crusher’s Song observes a grandmother, Mama Hamsatu Izang, as she navigates her two very different realities, that of a life-long stone crusher and now a social media star, in the hope that her new success might bring lasting change.

Traffic director Joy Onoja has found a way to keep cars moving and drivers cool-headed – she dances. Joy In The Traffic directed by Achor Yusuf gets behind the moves, motivation and mindset of this energetic traffic policewoman, to reveal a delightful side of urban life in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State, Nigeria.

Cameroonian peanut salesman, Hassan Mounpé stands out from the crowd in the markets of Yaoundé in Modern Peanuts of Cameroon by filmmaker Christelle Otse. In this delightful film she explores Hassan’s work, ambition, imagination and style, a man on a mission who sees the humble peanut as the source of a great potential enterprise. 

From Gabon comes Making Her Future by Amedee Pacome who explores the prolific career of Diouck Saï who is at once a shop owner, restaurateur, DJ and is also setting up a new philanthropic foundation. The film reveals her motivation, drive and compassion as well as her determination to bring light into the world.

“All these films focus on individual characters who stand out within their communities, each doing something compelling and, in some way, shaping the world around them,” says Ingrid Falck, head of documentaries at AJE.

“They provide a window into everyday lives across the continent, a diversity which is too often overlooked from outside. These films are engaging, insightful, unusual, extraordinary and sometimes utterly breath-taking. They draw us in and make us think, feel and even connect with people, reaching across the rich textures of the world and its people.”

Al Jazeera English partnered with South African production house Big World Cinema for the Africa Direct project.