Five African documentaries to see at the Festival International Rencontres

“Our passion is to present films that educate, entertain and leave a lasting impact,” said festival director Mandisa Zitha in her welcome speech.

The Africa Report took a look at the impressive line-up to bring you the five most anticipated African documentaries this year. These five films showcase original African storytelling at its finest, with themes related to some of the continent’s most pressing issues. From immigration to maternal mortality, via the quest for identity, these are the films that will certainly be talked about during the festival.

Among Us Women (Germany/Ethiopia)

Paying true homage to his title, Among Us Women – directed by the duo of Sarah Noa Bozenhardt and Daniel Abate Tilahun – focuses on the lives and plight of its formidable subjects, rural Ethiopian women as they struggle to support themselves, build families and raise the next generation.

The film follows the dedicated staff of a local health center set up to reduce maternal mortality while providing safe obstetric services to women in need.

When the filmmakers aren’t observing the women in action, they let them speak for themselves, resulting in a solid treatise on the realities of providing socially sensitive health care to people in deprived areas.

No Simple Way Home (South Africa/ South Sudan/ Kenya)

Akuol de Mabior’s impressive feature debut marked a milestone in February when it became the first film from South Sudan to premiere at the Berlinale. De Mabior, daughter of late national liberation hero John Garang de Mabior, embarks on a personal odyssey, reflecting on her identity, connection to home, and family heritage.

No easy return home also follows the filmmaker’s mother, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior – who, as Vice-Resident of South Sudan – is now tasked with upholding the family’s legacy while delivering the dividends of democracy to the people. Meanwhile, the country’s stability seems to be hanging by a thin rope.

No U-turn (Nigeria/South Africa/France/Germany)

As a teenager, Nollywood director Ike Nnaebue attempted to travel to Europe by road, through the desert and then by sea. He was not quite successful and chose to return. The trauma of that experience stayed with him. And 27 years later, Nnaebue revisits that perilous journey, this time with a small film crew, to better understand themselves through the stories of people who insist on taking the risk.

For her first documentary, Nnaebue unfolds a sprawling travel essay that listens to migrants talk about their dreams, hopes, challenges and traumas. With It’s not your turnNnaebue describes some of the factors that push young West Africans to leave their homes.

The promise of prison (Cameroon/France)

The protagonists of this heartwarming tale have found love in a hopeless place. But will this love save them? Détyr and Adèle were both serving prison sentences when they met and fell in love.

prison promise, directed by Joseph Ndjom, respectfully questions this bond between the lovebirds and recounts their efforts to reintegrate into society while maintaining the spark that brought them together.

Together, Détyr and Adèle face disapproving stares and economic insecurity, but they are also aided by the flawed but redeeming support of family and community.

Transactions (Zimbabwe/South Africa)

Rumbi Katedza’s incisive docu-drama follows a Zimbabwean family with members scattered across the globe. It shows the role that remittances play in maintaining the integrity of a modern family. The family at the center of Transactions includes members in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the UK – but the story Katedza tells is universal.

Transactions reveals the humanity behind the numbers that are usually thrown around whenever one considers the economic importance of immigration. Transactions packs a complex saga of love, guilt, and depths of responsibility into a slim runtime.

Darcy J. Skinner