Valentine’s sucks! I should take that back but I won’t. I could also sit here and bemoan my dislike for Valentine’s and focus solely on the fact that it is a holiday created to make us spend money, wear red outfits and/or buy flowers, cards, candy or jewelry and does push our limits further when we have to go as far as having to give up going to our favorite restaurants because it is usually so hard to get reservations.
Despite all my Valentine’s woes, I do have an escape from all that foolishness. I usually stay in and watch my favorite romantic movies (an aspect of Valentine’s that I highly approve of). For those of you that are curious about the movies that make up my favorites list, I will tell you, whether you want to hear it or not, that it includes; Brown Sugar, Diary of A Mad Black Woman, Dance with Me, Something New, Hav Plenty, Two can play that Game, The Inkwell, All about you, Last Holiday, Why did I get Married?, and Deliver us from Eva.
So, instead of focusing on the negative, and staying in to watch these classics over again, I have decided that this year I will try and watch movies that capture the romantic spirit of Africa. This is hard to do because it is usually difficult to find movies that showcase Africa in a positive light or that set about to explore the complex relationships of the African Diaspora. I was fortunate enough to find a list of films that I will try to watch and I picked a few that I thought were fitting . Outside of this list however, I am sure most of you are aware of the thousands of movies made in Nigeria and other countries in West Africa that would fit very well on this list, the most memorable for me being, The Return of Beyonce.
Carmen in Khayelitsha, (South Africa (2004))
This is a South African movie by the director Mark Dornford-May that surprisingly won the Golden Bear award at the annual film festival in Berlin. The film starring Pauline Malefane in the title role is a new version of the Carmen story which has already made it into film more than 30 times. This time it is different though, as the passionate loves story takes place in the South African township Khayelitsha -and all words are spoken and sung in the clicking Xhosa language.
Karmen GeÏ, (Senegal (2001))
African musical version of the Carmen drama directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka. Great images and editing and the film is easy to access if you are a “beginner” to African cinema. There are a few holes in the story-telling, but the film is generally very entertaining. Musically the film uses both traditional Senegalese singing, griot choirs and jazz -and it works very well. The Karmen character is played by the long-legged and very beautiful Djeïnaba Diop.
Mama Africa: Growing Up Urban, (Africa (2002))
Mama Africa consists of three such films–all directed by women–and actress-musician Queen Latifah introduces each one. The first, Bridget Pickering’s “Uno’s World,” is from Namibia and centers around Uno (Sophie David), a 25-year-old party girl who falls for a commitment-shy criminal and gives birth to his child. Ngozi Onwurah’s “Hang Time” is from Nigeria and concerns poor but promising basketball player Kwami (Brian Birogi), who makes a faustian deal for a new pair of sneakers. Lastly, Zulfah Otto-Sullies’s “Raya,” from South Africa, portrays the difficulties facing a single mother attempting to go straight after a stint in prison. All three films present universally difficult moral quandaries that aren’t always satisfactorily resolved, but are well acted by talented performers. It includes three bonus short films: Bintou (by Fanta Nacro, 2001), Riches (by Ingrid Sinclair, 2001), One Evening in July (by Raja Amari, 2001)
Jit, (Zimbabwe (1990))
Directed by Michael Raeburn, this romantic comedy is about a young African man fighting to get the beautiful girl. JIT is the name for the pop-music of Zimbabwe. The main character is a young boy called UK. People have always said he will go far -maybe as far as the United Kingdom. UK is ambitious, but he has not plans of leaving Zimbabwe – All he wants is to marry the beautiful Sofi. That is not easy when you are without money and too clumsy to keep a job. One point in the story is that UK has to combine his new modern money-seeking life with the traditions.
Life Is Rosy (La Vie Est Belle) (Belgium, France, Zaire (DR Congo)(1987)) Directed by Benoît Lamy and Mweze Ngangura, this is a musical story about a man coming to Kinshasa in search of love and music, starring Congolese singer Papa Wemba.
Maangamizi – The Ancient One, (Tanzania/USA (2000)) This is a Film by Martin Mhando and Ron Mulvihill that tells a story about three women; a doctor, her patient and the ancient and mysterious ancestor who brings them together. It is a tale of healing through love, compassion and forgiveness. It is the spiritual journey of the soul. It is a story that seeks to reclaim the connection between Africa and her Diaspora. It is a story that dares to represent the histories of two continents as it peels away layers upon layers of pain and ultimately brings healing of the soul.
All in all, despite Valentine’s foolishness, I think with Africa on my side and on my screen, I will be all the better for it.
Happy Valentine’s Oh!
The list and descriptions were most helpfully supplied by Carwfurd