documentary film


Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Can documentary film as a genre do justice to the astounding life of Fela Kuti?

Documentary films truncate an entire life into fleeting bursts of exuberance and somber moments. Any moments that exist in between, however significant they are, are left out completely or brushed over. In making a documentary, on any subject, the director carves a narrative. And at times, the narrative carves itself. The decision then to make a documentary...

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

“Just like in a science fiction movie”

The Mtsweni family lives in a squatter camp in Mamelodi township outside Pretoria, South Africa’s capital. Seventeen year old Lerato, who goes by Moskito, tells young German director Benjamin Kahlmeyer: “It’s not a real city. It’s what we call a...

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Fighting somebody else’s war

By Basia Lewandowska Cummings We British are very good at honoring the dead. Last Friday Prime Minister David Cameron, his deputy Nick Clegg et al attended the annual Remembrance Day ceremony; our political elite competed to appear...

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Youssef Chahine’s Cairo

The late, great Egyptian director Youssef Chahine shot this drama/documentary/biography on Cairo for television in 1991. As brilliant and beautiful a depiction of the city as any, Chahine infused the story with his usual political narratives–power, wealth, poverty, racial...

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The Uprising

“The Uprising of Hangberg” is filmmaking at its incendiary best. Part agitprop piece, testimonies, campaign document, and popular history, the film recounts the violent events of September 2010 when municipal police on the orders of the Cape Town’s...

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

‘Promised Land’

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Dirty Paraffin is “genre-defying”

We’ve been following The Fader’s Pitch Perfect documentary series since the start of the World Cup two weeks ago. In episode 2, The Fader documentary team receives a “short history of SA dance pop” from Johannesburg’s “genre-defying”...

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

People’s Culture

Priceless footage of 1980s Community Arts Project in Durban, which, according to one of the founders, artist Bruno Brincat, was “… an idealistic arts project that was ahead of its time and got nixed by...

Friday, March 19th, 2010

‘To Stay Illegally or To Die”

I am not sure about the ethics involved in making this film or how truthful the experiences of British journalist Sorious Samura are, but “Living with Illegals,” his 50 minute documentary (made for British television) is depressing...

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Staying Alive in Johannesburg

Part 1, above, of the Dutch TV documentary film, “Staying Alivein Joburg.” The film is limited in its focus–its primarily a walk through inner city Johannesburg ahead of the 2010 World Cup. We get no sense of life...

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The People of the Largest Slum in Africa

Unsentimental–and to some even quite shocking–documentary film about the residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slum screened on Al Jazeera English.  (The opening few minutes are quite graphic, showing a new born baby.)

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


I like the documentary film programming put out by The National Black Programming Consortium here in the US. They’re also got with programming that explore life on the continent. Like the three films below just...

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Weekend Links

So as usual, a bunch of links–new as well as ones–that have piled up in my bookmarks folder. First, some good news: a Sudanese court only fined–but did not flog–Lubna Hussein, the woman who wore jeans in...

Saturday, September 5th, 2009


Above and below are excerpts from the documentary “”Nina Simone: Great Performances–Live College Concerts & Interviews.”

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009


“Bronx Princess,” the documentary about the conflict between a Ghanaian immigrant-raised teenager (bound for college) and her mother in the Bronx will be shown on PBS (here in the US) on September 22. More information here.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009


The film (see the trailer here), which traces the evolution of Senegalese hip hop, will have a short run at Maysles Cinema in Harlem, September 23-27, 2009, on Malcolm X Boulevard, nightly at 7pm.

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Mugabe and The White African

This film about the struggle between a 74-year old white Zimbabwean farmer and the government of Robert Mugabe to forcibly seize his land in 2008, is one of four documentaries with an African theme at this year’s...