FA 2020 – We are Tano


1 – 21 October 2020

5 festivals. 10 films. A decade of great African Cinema. 

In October 2020, the UK’s leading festivals of African cinema, collectively known as TANO (which means 5 in Swahili), united to present a season of the best African cinema from the past decade. 

The TANO festivals – Film Africa in London, Africa in Motion in Scotland, Afrika Eye in Bristol, the Cambridge African Film Festival (CAFF), and Watch-Africa Cymru in Wales –  took UK audiences on an online journey of cinematic discovery during Black History Month with 10 contemporary African features from the past 10 years, including: 


Mahamat-Saleh Haroun | Chad/France | 2010 | 2h13m | French, Arabic with English subtitles

Present-day Chad. Adam, sixty something, a former swimming champion, is a pool attendant at a smart N’Djamena hotel. When the hotel gets taken over by new Chinese owners, he is forced to give up his job to his son Abdel. Terribly resentful, he feels socially humiliated. The country is in the throes of a civil war. Rebel forces are attacking the government. The authorities demand that the population contributes to the “war effort”, giving money or volunteers old enough to fight off the assailants. The District Chief constantly harasses Adam for his contribution. But Adam is penniless; he only has his son…

Introduction from the TANO network

Mahamet-Saleh Haroun has solidified his position as one of the continent’s leading auteurs. Haroun’s multiple award-winning films explore themes of exile, belonging, family, violence, trauma, and social injustice. Whether in fiction or documentary, Haroun’s films reflect a distinct visual style and unique voice. Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, A Screaming Man provides an austere, yet surprisingly affective and engrossing portrait of the relationship between father and son. As the film quietly builds to its tragic climax, the words of the great poet Aimé Césaire, from which the film borrows its title, serve as both portent and searing admonition: “Beware of assuming the sterile attitude of a spectator, for life is not a spectacle, a sea of miseries is not a proscenium, a screaming man is not a dancing bear.”


Akin Omotoso | South Africa | 2011 | 1h20m | English, Yoruba, Zulu with English subtitles

Ade (Hakeem kae-kazim) and Femi (Fabian Adeoye Lojede) are expatriate Nigerian brothers. Ade is a successful banker in London, while Femi, once a political dissident in his home country, has had to escape to South Africa, live in refugee tenements and work menial jobs. The brothers have not only been physically estranged, their relationship is ridden with unspoken betrayal, guilt and scorn, which they have carried since the early days of their youth. During a short visit to Johannesburg, Ade discovers that his brother has been missing for a week. He sets out to investigate Femi’s mysterious disappearance, reconstructing the pieces of his everyday life and the cruel hardships he endured just to survive. A riot erupts while Ade is visiting Femi’s former boss (Fana Mokoena) in one of the townships. Ade is forced to take shelter with the employer. The mounting violence outside seeps into their exchanges and eventually prompts an explosion of revelation. Structured like a thriller, “Man On Ground” is a rare descent into the immigrant underworld of Africa’s urban centres, as well as a timely and unflinching indictment of the rise of xenophobia, not just in South Africa but worldwide.

Introduction from the TANO network

A photograph of Ernesto Nhamuave, a Mozambican immigrant living in the informal settlement of the East Rand outside Johannesburg, burned alive in 2008 while onlookers watched and cheered haunted director Akin Omotoso and inspired his exploration of xenophobic violence in South Africa in Man on Ground. For Omotoso, the film’s subject is intensely personal, himself an immigrant from Nigeria to South Africa, and continues to resonate today. A prolific actor, director, and producer, Omotoso went on to make several critically acclaimed films, including the romantic comedy Tell Me Sweet Something and Vaya, winner of the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Director. Most recently, Omotoso has been tapped to helm Netflix’s first Nigerian original series. 

*Akin Omotoso’s latest film, THE GHOST AND THE HOUSE OF TRUTH, opened Film Africa 2020 on Friday, 30 October 2020.


Alain Gomis | Senegal/France | 2012 | 1h26m | Wolof, French with English subtitles

Stunning performance by rapper and poet Saul Williams (SLAM), here in an almost silent role. Today is the last day of Satché’s life, even though he’s strong and healthy. Walking through Dakar, he bids farewell to his parents, his first love, the friends of his youth, his wife and children. His final moments conjure a sublime joy. A multi-award winning meditation on the meaning of life… And death. Gomis’ next feature, Félicité, was selected for the Best Foreign Language film competition at the Academy Awards. 

Introduction from the TANO network
Cinema auteur Alain Gomis’s work reflects on existential questions of being, migration and exile. With the poetic TEY, winner of best film at FESPACO 2012, Gomis explores our inevitable and universal final departure – death. TEY evokes utter calm concerning this often tortured theme. Gomis’ extraordinary directorial skill transfers feeling and action almost physically to the viewer. A face massage performed on the hero, to show him what will happen after his death, feels as if it’s happening to you. This magical and sometimes surreal film has left our past festival audiences completely silent, as if in joint meditation, followed by massive applause.  


Judy Kibinge | Kenya/Germany | 2012 | 1h25m | Swahili, Kikuyu, English, Kalenjin with English subtitles


Kenya, 2007. The post-election violence is raging. Anne (Susan Wanjiru) is one of the victims: hospitalised, with a dead husband, and her son in a coma. A young, troubled gang member is drawn to Anne and her farm seemingly in search of redemption. Both need something that only the other can give to allow them to shed the painful memories of their past and move on. Kibinge’s courageous and sensitively-observed film tackles a tough subject with grace and insight. 

Introduction from the TANO network
Something Necessary is set in the immediate post-conflict period after the inter-ethnic violence that erupted during Kenya’s 2008 elections. Ethnically driven sexual violence was committed against women and girls in the form of individual and gang rapes. This paints the traumatic socio-political context of Judy Kibinge’s 2013 film. It is an often harrowing, yet at times gentle, film that illuminates the effects of conflict and violence on women, as well as women’s roles in post-conflict reconciliation efforts. Judy Kibinge is one of Kenya’s most high-profile filmmakers. Her films have been recognised internationally, she has been a jury member for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) and in 2017 she was invited to act as a voting member for the Academy Awards.


Hajooj Kuka | Sudan/South Africa | 2014 | 1h5m | Arabic with English subtitles

A music movement is at the core of this engaging and unsettling documentary from war reporter Hajooj Kuka. Telling the story of the Sudanese populations of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions this concentrated documentary feature reveals, and revels in, the cultural production and societal organisation of these people. The film is structured around the daily bombing runs carried out by the Sudanese government in Khartoum. The bombing runs utilise Russian Antonov cargo-carriers to try to blast these ‘rebels’ out of existence. However, such tactics have only further reinforced a determination to preserve a specifically African culture that is viewed as under threat. Sarah Mohamed, an ethnomusicologist, features prominently as a guide to the various music forms that have sprung up around the impromptu celebrations staged after each bombing run. These are celebrations of life as much as culture.

Introduction from the TANO network 
‘There’s so much hope that you would not expect people to have’. Filmmaker and activist Hajooj Kuka reminds us of the value of culture in conflict and inspires us to hang on to hope – and art. Beats of the Antonov is a brave and telling documentary. Kuka films in the hideouts and refugee camps where Sudanese villagers have fled, yet are still bombed by a government intent on eliminating rebel forces. Despite this, people respond with singing, dancing, laughter and marvellous music from the root of their culture. Through his journey we realise the Sudanese conflict stems from a war on identity. 


Leyla Bouzid | Tunisia/France/Belgium | 2015 | 1h2min | Arabic with English subtitles

Tunis, summer 2010, a few months before the Revolution: Farah, 18 years-old, has just graduated and her family already sees her as a future doctor. But she doesn’t think the same way. She sings in a

political rock band. She has a passion for life, gets drunk, discovers love and her city by night against the will of her mother Hayet, who knows Tunisia and its dangers too well.

Introduction from the TANO network  

“As I Open My Eyes” is Leyla Bouzid’s debut feature. It is a story about youth and their energy, about intergenerational relationships, defiance and music as a form of resistance. The film gives the sense of the revolution coming. The enthusiasm and naivete of the protagonist capture the audience and dominate most of the film to then leave space to paranoia and suspicion, and a dramatic turn when the police arrest Farah. Ghassan Amami’s lyrics and the soundtrack by  Iraqi-British oud master Khayam Allami perfectly spouse the narrative and capture the tension between contemporary and traditional, as well as the revolutionary spirit the preceded the Jasmine Revolution.


Rahmatou Keïta | Sonrhay Empire Productions, Niger | 2016 | 1h36m | Songhoy-Zarma, Hausa, Fulani with English subtitles


Tiyaa, a student and member of a prestigious aristocratic family, is back home to the Sultanate of Damagaram, in Niger, for the winter holidays. She is expecting the young man she met while studying in France, also from an important family not far from Damagaram, to make a formal proposal of marriage, but the handsome suitor is slow to come… This vibrant and beautiful female-led story touches upon themes of love, longing, sensuality, marriage and community. The Wedding Ring, Rahmatou Keïta’s second feature, pays homage to the fading customs of Sahelian people in Niger, documenting their ways of life and cultural traditions in order to preserve their memory for generations to come.

Introduction from the TANO network
Although one of the founding fathers of African cinema, the prolific animator Moustapha Alassane, was from Niger, this landlocked West African country has not boasted a flourishing film industry. Enter the elegant and articulate Rahmatou Keïta, who set her stunning female-focused coming-of-age feature The Wedding Ring in a rural Sahelian village and based the rituals and traditions in the film on her own aristocratic heritage. The Wedding Ring has been screened internationally to high acclaim, and was the first film to be submitted by Niger in the Foreign Language Oscar category. Keïta is particularly proud of the film’s transnationally African provenance, as it was funded entirely by African sources. 


Daryne Joshua | South Africa | 2016 | 2h5m | Afrikaans with English subtitles


Daryne Joshua’s impressive debut is a portrait of life on the mean streets of 1960s Cape Town and is as much a paean to the human need for stories – and storytellers – as it is a realistic portrait of youth gang culture. Barely in their teens, Abraham and his three friends form a gang, more out of self-preservation than malice. As they grow up, their harmless antics inevitably evolve into petty crimes, and soon Abraham is in prison. It is there that his gift for telling stories protects him from the worst that prison life has to offer. Now that he’s out he wants to become a writer, but will his gang friends and society give him a chance?

Introduction from the TANO network 
Noem My Skollie is the quintessential gangster movie and it’s all the more heart-wrenching as it’s based on a true story – the life of the film’s script-writer, John W. Fredericks, who lived to tell his incredible journey. The film takes you right into the raw violence, poverty and crime of the marginalised Cape Flats in the 1960s. Though it makes for difficult viewing at times, including sexual assaults and murders, the authentic dialogue, great performances and expert pacing keep you hooked. The use of storytelling also serves as a soothing balm to the otherwise harsh brutality that the main characters endure. Noem My Skollie was a favourite with audiences when it first came out. The film was selected as the South African entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Academy Awards, and won the Film Africa 2017 Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Film.    


Likarion Wainaina | Kenya/Germany | 2018 | 1h14m | English, Kikuyu, Swahili with English subtitles


First-time feature director Wainaina’s deeply emotional family tale follows young heroine Jo, a witty 9-year old terminally ill girl, who is taken back to her rural village to live out the rest of her short life. Her only comfort during these dull times are her dreams of being a Superhero, which prove to be something her rebellious teenage sister Mwix, overprotective mother Kathryn and the entire village of Maweni think they can fulfil. 

Introduction from the TANO network 
Supa Modo is a beautiful, captivating film suitable for all the family. This accomplished debut feature guides us through every step of dealing with loss and grief, led by the contagious hope, imagination and enthusiasm of the main character – 9 year old, terminally ill Jo. Set in an unnamed Kenyan village, the film highlights the importance of community and coming together during difficult times. Supa Modo won the Film Africa 2018 Audience Award and writer-director Likarion Wainaina dedicated it “to everyone who has suffered loss”. He added: “May you find your smile, your joy, your hope, your dream and may you find your own Supa Modo!” 


Mpumelo Mcata, Perivi Katjavivi | South Africa/Namibia | 2019 | 46m | English with English subtitles


Fanon is an ambitious young African filmmaker attending an international film festival. She is desperately looking for a producer to fund her debut feature film but the more that Fanon explores and observes the festival space the more she begins to question whether she will ever find her place in this world. A self-reflexive project documenting the film industry from the point of view of a black African female filmmaker called Fanon. 

Introduction from the TANO network  

Co-directed by Mpumelo Mcata and Perivi Katjaviv, Film Festival Film is a film about film festivals and the film industry. Shot in a few days at the Durban International Film Festival, in South Africa, the crew follows Fanon, a black female filmmaker, who is preparing a pitch for her new film. Using a mix of documentary and fictional elements, the film addresses questions about authorship, power and positioning, with irony and originality. Through its protagonist and industry representatives being interviewed in Fanon’s hotel room, without never interacting directly with her, the film invites the audience to reflect on the contradictions and biases of the film industry, from financing to race. 

Film Festivals

FA 2020 – We are Tano


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