Africa is something else. The source of mankind, natural beauty that will take your breath away, history that will shock and amaze you in equal measure. If you haven’t yet made it to the continent, if you have and you need to reminisce, or if you’re there right now, here are some great movies to stir up those feelings. True, it might be a bit cliché to watch a movie about a country when you’re in the country, but never will you be more taken by its story, its backgrounds, its language and its message. So make the time and engross yourselves in these crackers:

Movies to watch in Africa

Hotel Rwanda:

Good movies are movies that have the power to captivate people, great movies are movies which can almost transcend their art form and help you realize the emotions of the characters. Hotel Rwanda is truly a great movie.

Based in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda, it tells the horrific true story of the 1994 genocidal massacre involving the Hutus and Tutsis where the death toll reached an incomprehensible 800, 000 Rwandans in 100 terrifying days. All humanity was not lost however and Paul Rusesabagina, played with great passion by Don Cheadle, risked his life time and time again when he accepted fleeing Hutus and Tutsi reformists in the Hotel Des Milles Collines, bribing the Interahamwe militia with anything he could get his hands on. You can’t fail to be moved by the story and sitting in the Hotel Des Milles Collines, guiltily drinking an orange juice, trying to comprehend what happened there a few years previously is one of the most somber and surreal experiences of my life.

NOTE: I should also mention another great movie covering the same story – Shooting Dogs. A movie from the BBC and runs Hotel Rwanda very close.

Last King of Scotland:

Retelling the rise and subsequent gruesome reign of the execrable Idi Amin, The Last King of Scotland uses a little poetic license to merge 3 characters into James McAvoy’s brilliant Scottish doctor who somehow or other became Idi Amin’s main confidant. The movie documents their relationship and touches on the horror that came with Amin’s reign. Ugandans are refreshingly open about their history and, with tact of course, it’s possible to sit in a café in Kampala and chat with the older generation about Amin’s reign and the damage done to the ‘Pearl of Africa’ as Uganda is affectionately known.

The Lion King:

If you haven’t seen Simba singing and dancing along with Rafiki, Pumba and Timone then, my friend, your childhood has a huge Disney shaped hole in it and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. As you backpack around east Africa you’ll see the strong Swahili references throughout the movie, a great reference point for a charming region and an equally charming movie. Simba means lion, Poomba means warthog and more endearingly (as you’ll hear yelled across the street countless times) Rafiki means friend.

Any trip to Africa isn’t complete without a safari and I challenge anyone to say they were out looking for wildlife and didn’t, even once at least, perhaps even just in their head, hum a quick rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. In the jungle, the mighty jungle…. You know how it goes!


Blood Diamond:

TIA. This Is Africa. Indeed. The movie which gave birth to the mainstream usage of this age-old maxim – When your bus leave 3 hours late, TIA. When your food arrives and is nothing like what you ordered, TIA. All fun and games of course, but this movie paints a slightly grimmer picture of TIA-  namely conflict or blood diamonds. Set in Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia as Leo Di Caprio, politically charged, insists on calling it throughout the movie) it tells the story of a local man who comes across a valuable diamond. The lengths at which people are prepared to go to is a shocking reminder to how cheap life can be on this continent sometimes. The movie points a stern finger at a European diamond company (I’m sure you see the parallels with reality here!) who horde the diamonds, keeping the prices high and thereby maintaining the violent acts dished out by the people in charge of the diamond mines across Africa. It may not be a true story per se, however I bet you’ll think twice about those diamond earrings next time you reach for your jewelry drawer.

District 9:

Set in South Africa, the storyline goes that an extraterrestrial race come to earth and are forced to live in horrible conditions. They are rejected by the mainstream population of both South Africa and the world and are relocated to District 9. A far fetched story I hear you say?

Not quite… the movie is based on historical event which transpired during the apartheid era, specifically when 60, 000 blacks were ‘relocated’ to District 6 in Cape Town. Don’t let the xenophobic themes get you down though, when you are sipping your ice-cold beer on Long Street in Cape Town you’ll feel a whole different vibe now, I assure you of that =)

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