This Africa Day, MultiChoice comes bearing presents.
For the average film lover, this one is major. Think of it as a film festival, a jubilant celebration of contemporary African cinema. As part of activities to celebrate Africa Day on Tuesday, 25 May, MultiChoice launched M-Net Movies AfroCinema, a pop-up movie channel dedicated to showcasing and celebrating contemporary African films.
Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the founding of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) is a celebration of pan-Africanism today that also projects the future.
“At its essence, Africa Day is about celebrating African unity and success as well as acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead,” says John Ugbe, Chief Executive Officer, MultiChoice Nigeria.
The AfroCinema Channel opened on Friday, 21 May, and will run until Sunday, 30 May 2021. It can be viewed on DStv channel 198 by customers on the following DStv packages; Premium, Compact Plus, Compact, Confam and Yanga. Viewers on GOtv Max and Jolli platforms can also tune in via GOtv channel 29 to enjoy what promises to be an African film spectacular.
Curated especially with the intention of celebrating the incredible diversity of cultures, this initiative honors the breath of contemporary cinema that is produced and distributed on the continent. In the last decade, film industries from Nollywood to Kenya have been energized by an influx of storytellers looking to craft homegrown narratives. The idea of the African story has been challenged and interpreted through multiple lenses. With the widening of avenues of exhibition like MultiChoice provides, filmmakers are increasingly discovering avenues to thrive.
Through collaboration, funding, co-productions and powered by an uncommon tenacity to rise above obvious challenges, local film industries across the continent have sprung up. Filmmakers are finding their rhythm and it isn’t too hard to be hopeful about the future of African film.
Here’s a list of some of the films scheduled to air on the AfroCinema Channel.
The knockout drama, The Ghost and the House of Truth (Nigeria) is the second collaboration between superstar producer Ego Boyo and director Akin Omotoso. Emotionally devastating, TGAHT is bolstered by a ‘like-you’ve-never-seen-her’ performance by Nollywood icon, Kate Henshaw. A child goes missing while walking home from school and her mother enlists the help of a dedicated police officer to help find her. TGATHT delves into a national malaise, tackling the under-discussed scourge of missing children and the dangers they are exposed to. With a slim running time, Omotoso makes the tactical decision to go for emotional and mental violence as opposed to gratuitous physical scenes.
For Sylvia (Nigeria), director Daniel Oriahi delves into the supernatural and elicits a memorable performance from his leading lady Zainab Balogun. She plays the titular character, an imaginary girlfriend from the spirit world who wreaks havoc on her loved one when he suddenly outgrows his fondness for her.
It isn’t all heavy stuff though as heavyweights Funke Akindele and Omoni Oboli face off in the hilarious yet sweet-natured Moms at War. Actress, Elvina Ibru gives a showstopping performance in Bolanle Austen-Peters’ The Bling Lagosians as the matriarch of a fabulously wealthy family determined to throw herself a lavish birthday party while her husband tries to keep the family business from collapsing.
The breath of African stories goes beyond the high-profile gloss of feel-good Nollywood comedies and the programming on the AfroCinema channel is attuned to this. Mozambique’s award-winning The Train of Salt and Sugar is an international co-production with Portugal that is set during the civil war where a single train connects Mozambique to Malawi. Licinio Azevedo directs. While Back of the Moon follows the life of a gangster in South Africa who finds something worth living for. Oscar nominee Angus Gibson directs a cast that includes Richard Lukunku, Lemogang Tsipa and singer Moneoa Moshesh.
The MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF), a shared-value initiative set up to provide a platform for creative industries to develop their talent and engage with one another has in the last few years minted a new generation of storytellers. The AfroCinema Channel showcases these young talents with some of the films that have come out of the MTF academies in the different regions.
From the MultiChoice Talent Factory (MTF) East Africa Academy Class of 2018 comes Ensulo (Kenya), the story of a king who becomes gravely ill prompting his daughter to lead. She confronts her biggest challenge when a water bottling company seeks to profit from the kingdom’s sacred water supply. Directed by Jamal Kishuli, Ensulo stars Michelle Tiren and Claude Judah.
Another alumnus Allen Onyige, this time from the MTF Academy in Nigeria presents Sunset in Makoko, a documentary that journeys into one of the biggest floating slums in Africa. Sunset in Makoko presents Makoko as a place where joy and hope manage to shine through the poverty and despair that surrounds the community.
MultiChoice of course is no stranger to celebrating African film. In 2003, M-Net revolutionized the film distribution landscape with the launch of Africa Magic, a Pay TV entertainment channel focusing on programming most popularly Nigerian films and episodic content. Africa Magic was an instant hit spreading beyond Nigeria and South Africa to become a collection of channels currently broadcasting in over 50 African countries. The influential channels include regional channels in indigenous languages (Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba) as well as specialized options like Africa Magic Epic and Africa Magic Urban.
Then of course there is the ultra-glamorous shot of excitement to the industry that is the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCAs). Since inception, the AMVCAs has become one of the hottest tickets in show business, handing out highly coveted awards to the best and most popular films on the continent.
The spirit of Africa is alive and thriving. And MultiChoice is right in the thick of it.