Five African documentaries you must see on TV

Documentaries are some of the best ways of depicting real-life stories without the help of professional actors. Capturing the raw emotion from specific people and/or those around them while experiencing or reminiscing something impactful effectively tickles the mind and tugs the heartstrings of anyone who sees it.

If you are a fan of such programs, UTV is here to give you five recommendations for the best African documentaries ever made:

I am Samuel

‘I am Samuel’ tells the story of how the gay community in Kenya gets prejudiced by the majority. As Sam, the documentary’s subject, finds romance in Nairobi, he gets torn between enduring the homophobia that clouds his society and his love for his family. 

The film also shows how resilient Sam and his boyfriend Alex are even when violence threatens to tear their relationship apart. This documentary was released in 2020 and is directed by Peter Murimi.

The Letter

‘The Letter’ is a 2019 documentary directed by Maia Lekow and Christopher King. It shows the extent of how traditional Kenyans can be, going so far as to use supernatural reasons to explain things that are otherwise explainable by science.

It focuses on the subject of the documentary, Margaret Kamango, receiving a letter accusing her of witchcraft for the misfortunes her villagers experience including droughts and suspected infertility of some women.

In Search

‘In Search’ is a documentary that raises awareness on the impact of female genital mutilation. Released in 2020, this film is directed by Beryl Magoko and features her as one of the subjects of the film. Magoko talks to other victims of this so-called ‘female circumcision’ and how it demonstrates the dominance of the African patriarchy over young women.

Becoming Black

‘Becoming Black’ tells the story of how filmmaker Ines Johnson-Spain slowly uncovered her true identity by talking to her biological father and relatives from Togo. Johnson-Spain first discovers her mother Sigrid fell in love with a Togolese national named Lucien and got pregnant despite being married to a white man named Armin.

Johnson-Spain then made sense of the fact that Sigrid and Armin kept denying that she was born from an African man, putting to rest some of her confusions as a black child of two white parents.

Finding Sally

Another 2020 documentary, ‘Finding Sally’ is directed by Tamara Dawit and tells the story of how she discovers the truth behind her mysterious aunt Selamawit, otherwise known as Sally. Dawit finds out that one of her father’s sisters became a member of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (EPRP), and was a victim of the Red Terror, the most brutal tragedy of political repression in her home country.

As Dawit finds out the truth behind her Aunt Sally, she also uncovers her family’s connections to Ethiopian history. ‘Finding Sally’ shows how some people have become brave enough to speak out against discrimination and be able to make history from that innate courage.

These programs do more than just tell stories. Documentaries also raise awareness to issues that are otherwise unheard of and controversies that need to be brought to light. If you want more mind-blowing or life-changing programs on your TV, check out UTV’s listings.

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