Documentaries, features shine light on continent
Berlinale welcomes African films
Published: Feb 16, 2022 06:35 PM
A man passes by Nigerian movie billboards at a cinema in Lagos, Nigeria on February 19, 2019. File photo: AFP

A man passes by Nigerian movie billboards at a cinema in Lagos, Nigeria on February 19, 2019. File photo: AFP

African films are enjoying a high profile at the Berlinale festival in 2022, with debuts from South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) turning heads along with a new take on "Nollywood."

While there are no African films in the main competition at Europe's first major film festival of 2022, several documentaries and features from the continent are running in the event's sidebar sections. 

In the documentary No Simple Way Home, director Akuol de Mabior holds a deeply personal lens to the recent history of South Sudan and the legacy of her father, John Garang de Mabior, a revolutionary leader who was killed in 2005. 

De Mabior, who was born and raised in exile, turns the camera on her mother and sister as they strive to find meaning and hope in a country weighed down by years of political and personal trauma.

The film aims to "generate conversations about what it means in an African context to feel at home in your own country," De Mabior told AFP.

"Initially I wanted to make a film about my mother, because I had this feeling that history's tendency to forget women's contributions. I had this feeling that my father would be remembered and I worried that she wouldn't be," she said. 

But the film evolved to become more political as her mother was elected as one of five vice presidents in South Sudan's new government.

"It started making more sense to think more widely about the impact that she might have on the country, on whether or not this leadership that was part of this liberation struggle are the right people to take things forward," De Mabior said.

No Simple Way Home is one of two films showing at the Berlinale made under Generation Africa, a project to fund documentaries offering a new narrative on migration.

The other is No U-Turn from Nigerian director Ike Nnaebue, known for his "Nollywood" classics such as A Long Night and Dr Mekam.

In this new documentary, Nnaebue retraces the route he took as a young man from Nigeria via Benin, Mali and Mauritania to Morocco, hoping to get to Europe. 

He speaks to young people at various stages of the journey that he himself eventually abandoned to study filmmaking in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, in the festival's Encounters section, Father's Day from Kivu Ruhorahoza tells three intersecting family stories in present-day Rwanda.

The characters are a mother trying to cope with the loss of her son, a small-time criminal aspiring to pass on wisdom to his son, and a young woman taking care of the ailing father she never truly loved.

In the short film section, Somali director Mo Harawe's Will My Parents Come to See Me charts the final day of a prisoner facing the death penalty. 

And in documentary We, Students!, young director Rafiki Fariala offers an insight into the chaotic lives of a group of economics students at the CAR's Bangui University.

The film "is not there to change the world, to change things, but it is to tell our story, to show who we are," Fariala told AFP.