After announcing the winners of their competition to discover some of Africa’s most exciting, emerging filmmakers, in March 2022, Netflix and UNESCO are finally able to share the completed short films in their African Folktales, Reimagined anthology. Following a call for submissions, which resulted in over 2000 entries, six winning filmmakers were chosen, provided with a budget of $90,000 and given “creative guidance” by established mentors.
“We are excited to finally bring this anthology of short films created by the next generation of African storytellers to Netflix members around the world”, Netflix’s Director of Film in Africa, Tendeka Matatu, explains. “This initiative is a testament to our ongoing efforts to strengthen the pipeline of African storytelling and to include voices from underrepresented communities. We’re grateful to our partners at UNESCO who walked this journey with us to provide an opportunity for the six emerging African filmmakers to create and showcase their reimagined folktales to the world, in their own languages, so that more people can see their lives reflected on screen,” Matatu adds.
Here’s what you can expect from the anthology:
The Short Films
From Afrofuturistic Sci-Fi to Western-inspired tales of revenge, the six shorts in the anthology all present contrasting approaches to narrative and craft, but are united through a desire to provide insight into Africa’s varying cultures, traditions and beliefs.
Halima’s Choice | dir. Korede Azeez
With 99% of the world population uploaded into virtual worlds, a young girl from a secluded Fulani village inadvertently elopes with an AI to escape an arranged marriage.
Anyango and the Ogre | dir. Voline Oguto
With the backdrop of a childhood folktale, 13-year-old Otis struggles to protect his younger siblings from a monster that lives inside their home.
Katera of the Punishment Island | dir. Loukman Ali
Abandoned on an island, a woman grieving the loss of her baby exacts revenge on the powerful man who put her there.
Katope | dir. Walt Mzengi Corey
A young child with magical origins sets out on a journey to help end the drought that is devastating the community
Enmity Djinn | dir. Mohamed Echkouna
Three generations after he was last summoned, an ancient Enmity Djinn finds himself in an unfamiliar city confronted by a familiar foe.
MaMlambo | dir. Gcobisa Yako
The mystical river being, MaMlambo, watches over the sacred waters of discarded bodies.
When it comes to these short film anthologies, even the most high profile of them – like Love Death + Robots – suffer with consistency, but with African Folktales, Reimagined this is probably its strongest quality. From the six films, there are only a few weak moments throughout the two-hour run-time and most of these are down to some slightly erratic performances.
In general, the filmmaking is impressive across all six episodes, with the anthology serving as a calling card for the emerging African directors and their talents. While all of the films offer some kind of cultural insight, they do so with an originality and flair that showcases the directors storytelling prowess and their ability to breathe new life into classic tales from the continent.
There are standout films, however, with Mohammed Echkouna’s (featured on our site back in 2017 with his short Trail of Hope) Enmity Djinn our personal favorite. The story of an ancient spirit summoned to modern Africa, Echkouna’s short captivates with its haunting premise, but it’s the character of the Djinn that’s the big draw here. Expertly brought to life, the shots of it stalking this modern landscape are truly unforgettable, with the costume and VFX work (Echkouna has worked in the Visual Effects departments of a number of notable TV shows) really giving the being a tangible presence on-screen.
“It was the hardest challenge, yet the most rewarding experience I’ve had personally”
Talking about his work on African Folktales, Reimagined Echkouna admits he felt “so much pride that a film from Mauritania by Mauritanias with a Mauritanian folktale is streaming on Netflix for millions of people around the world”. Adding that he was also very pleased with “the work our diverse team from across the African continent and around the world did to bring this short to life. It was the hardest challenge, yet the most rewarding experience I’ve had personally.”
Loukman Ali’s Katera of the Punishment Island is another of the shorts that catches the eye, opting for a more action-packed approach to storytelling if this is what an African-take on the classic Western genre can offer, we’d love to see more. While Korede Azeez’s Halima’s Choice, fronted by a captivating performance from Habiba Ummi Mohammed, shows the world what Africa has to offer the Science-Fiction genre. Exploring themes of existentialism, reality and free-will, there’s are hints of classical sci-fi in Azeez’s short, but it’s told with such originality and flair it easily stands apart from its influences.