Exclusive: Great African Filmmakers

By Adesina Kasali

The African continent has always been a vibrant source of creative talent, from literature to visual art to filmmaking. For decades, African countries have consistently boasted some of the world’s most pioneering directors, producers and writers. Great movie makers from the area have been and continue to come from all over Africa, ranging from Morocco to Ghana and from Zimbabwe to South Africa. These film makers have made and continue to make impressive contributions to the cinematic world, producing films that are complexly nuanced, thought-provoking and beautiful.

The first great African filmmaker to make an impact was Ousmane Sembene. Born in 1923 in Senegal, Sembene spent much of his career as a self-taught filmmaker. His films were known for their liberal and often radical politics, tackling subjects such as colonialism and post-colonialism in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa with a boldness and vigor. He was awarded numerous international film awards, including two at Cannes, and he is widely considered to be the father of African cinema.

Djibril Diop Mambety

Since Sembene other filmmakers like Djibril Diop Mambety have made their mark. Mambety was a Senegalese filmmaker and a contemporary of Sembene. His films were also highly political, deconstructing the French occupation of his homeland and exploring the larger themes of racism and colonization. Mambety was awarded the prestigious Cannes award for Best Short Film for his 1995 work “The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun.”

Youssef Chahine

Other celebrated African filmmakers include the Egyptian director Youssef Chahine, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 1997 film The Embrace of the Serpent. Chahine was also awarded a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival. Chahine was known for films that were critical of social and political issues, as well as his vision of exposing the cultural values of his home country.

Wanuri Kahiu

In more recent years, a host of film makers have risen to prominence, including Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu. She is perhaps best known for her science fiction film “Pumzi,” which was selected to be part of the Sundance Film Festival in 2010. Kahiu is an advocate for digital technology and has been involved in the formation of numerous platforms to allow African artist and filmmakers to showcase their works.

Neill Blomkamp

Finally, there are notable directors from South Africa including Neill Blomkamp, whose film “District 9” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009. Blomkamp also directed the critically acclaimed “Elysium.” Another famous South African filmmaker is Johnny Walsh, who has directed projects like “Spud” and “Frenzy.”


These are just a few of the numerous talented and gifted film makers from the African continent who are making their presence known on the world stage. From Ousmane Sembene to YoussefGreag