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4 Blockbuster Movies That Richly Showcased African Culture on the Silver Screen


Movies have the power to transport us to different times and parts of the world, engaging us in diverse cultures. In recent years, there has been a growing appreciation for the inclusion of African art in mainstream entertainment, universally showcasing the beauty and richness of the continent's artistic traditions and telling the African story by Africans themselves.


While African art has captivated audiences worldwide, some renowned films have played a pivotal role in showcasing this artistic heritage, bringing African art to the forefront of global consciousness.


Here are the top 4 on our list...

 

1. Black Panther (2018)


(Image Credit: IMBD)
(Image Credit: IMBD)

The Marvel superhero film "Black Panther" is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It follows the enthronement of T'Challa after his father's death, as king and protector of Wakanda - a technologically advanced nation that is rich in vibranium, a rare metal.


Directed by Ryan Coogler, "Black Panther" showcases a rich portrayal of African culture, incorporating various forms of African art such as elements of African tribal art, architecture, languages, masks, sculptures, beaded tabards that feature talismans, costumes inspired by different African traditions, such as the Maasai people of Kenya and Himba tribes and rituals of the different tribes of Wakanda creating a visually captivating representation of African aesthetics. The movie set pulled inspiration from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo-Kinshasa, and Ethiopia, as well as the designs of Zaha Hadid, and the pre-colonization architecture of the historic Mali Empire and the city of Timbuktu. It also includes elements of Afrofuturism, a cultural movement that imagines the future of Africa and its diaspora. "Black Panther" received numerous accolades, including nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Song, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing at the 91st Academy Awards; it won Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score. The film was the top entertainment Google Search of 2018 along with the sixth overall. It grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide and broke numerous box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film directed by a Black filmmaker. In December 2021, its screenplay was listed number fifty-seven on the Writers Guild of America's "101 Greatest Screenplays of the 21st Century (So Far)".


 

2. Timbuktu (2014)


(Image credit: DIPSICDUDE)
(Image credit: DIPSICDUDE)

The drama film "Timbuktu" depicts the lives of people living in the ancient city of Timbuktu, Mali, under the control of jihadist extremists. While the film addresses political and social issues, it also presents glimpses of traditional African art including ancient redstone walls and African mountains and historic sites. The movie features scenes with rare African sculptures, Tuareg jewelry, intricately designed metalwork, and ornate calligraphy, showcasing the artistic traditions of the continent. "Timbuktu" was selected to compete for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the François Chalais Prize. It was also named Best Film at the 11th Africa Movie Academy Awards, where it was nominated for ten further awards. In 2017, The New York Times ranked it the 12th best film of the 21st century so far.

 


3. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)


(Image credit: AfroDB)
(Image credit: AfroDB)

The 1980 South African comedy film,"The Gods Must Be Crazy", follows the adventures of Xi, a San Bushman who lives in the Kalahari Desert, and his encounter with a Coca-Cola bottle that falls from the sky. The film depicts the contrast between the simple and harmonious life of the Bushmen and the complex and chaotic life of the modern world. It also showcases the rich and diverse art and culture of the San people, including their language, music, hunting, and spirituality. It incorporates elements of African tribal art with traditional objects such as handmade baskets, musical instruments like drums and kalimbas, and traditional ancient African clothing worn by the characters, giving viewers a glimpse into African material culture. The film was a huge success, becoming the most commercially successful film in South Africa's history and one of the most popular foreign films in the United States.


 

4. Black Is King (2020)


Black Is King Movie Cover
Black Is King Movie Cover

Directed, and produced by American singer, songwriter and businesswoman, Beyoncé Knowles, the 2020 musical film and visual album, "Black Is King", is a reimagining of the story of The Lion King, using the songs from the 2019 remake and The Lion King: The Gift, an album curated by Beyoncé. The film explores themes of identity, ancestry, legacy, and power. Celebrating the beauty and diversity of African art with a wide variety of African music, dance, costumes, hairstyles, historic locations, languages, artifacts, and culture, the movie features artists, actors, dancers, and designers from various parts of the continent and its diaspora. "Black Is King" received six nominations at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, including Best Music Film. The film also won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Program at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards.

 

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