5 films directed by African women that confront gender stereotypes

© Courtesy IEFTA (Hermon Hailay)

We are approaching a new age where women are challenging the patriarchal conditions of African cinema – rapidly gaining a voice in a male dominated industry.

Subjects have ranged from coming-of-age to female empowerment to romantic troubles. Here are five worthy examples of this revolution in African cinema.

“Ayanda” by Sara Blecher

Ayanda is a 21-year-old artist from South Africa. She has been keeping her father’s failing garage afloat ever since his death, finding herself stuck in a world of greasy overalls and gender stereotypes.

But when her uncle announces that the garage is going to be sold, Ayanda suddenly realises that the garage is her last tangible connection to her late father, and so embarks on a new business venture with her boyfriend David, who together refurbish old vintage cars for resale.

The film is a beautiful depiction of the constant transition taking place in South Africa, and how the role women play in it is becoming ever more pronounced.

“Between Rings”: The Esther Phiri Story by Sala Sorri & Jessie Chisi 

Esther Phiri has different ideas about what she wants to do with her life compared with other young women in Zambia. While they plan their weddings, Esther plans a single, independent life as a professional boxer.

What came next was an unprecedented rise to fame, as she became the undefeated world champion. So unexpected by the boxing world, her story was dubbed “Zambia’s Million Dollar Baby.”

But behind closed doors, Esther is slowly being crushed by the pressures of being in the spotlight – her own success becoming the biggest hurdle to jump. This documentary provides a stark insight into the afflictions that can accompany any measure of fame.

“Price of Love” by Hermon Hailay

When a young taxi driver from Addis Ababa has his taxi stolen after he helps a young girl escape a violent pimp. Teddy found his livelihood abruptly snatched from him just a heartbeat away from his decision to turn his life around and put alcohol abuse behind him.

The mysterious young beauty is burdened by the guilt of her involvement in this story, and so offers to help him get his taxi back. But soon, Teddy finds himself falling for her charms and caught up in the dark side of love.

For this film, director Hermon Hailay draws on her upbringing, that was in close proximity to sex work. This offbeat romance is compelling in its authenticity – a bittersweet tale of Addis Ababa’s dark underbelly.

“All Is Well” by Pocas Pascoal

Sisters Alda (16) and Maria (17) flee to Lisbon to escape civil war in Angola, finding themselves caught in the middle of a troubled past and an uncertain future. They face many obstacles as they move into womanhood, and are forced to find the strength they need to take control of their destinies.

In this film, award-winning director Pocas Pascoal uses her personal story of escape and exile to grant refugees a voice within a narrative that continues to conspire against them.

“Tjitji the Himba Girl” by Lomboleni Oshosheni Hiveluah

Tjitji dreams of being the next Oprah Winfrey, but becoming a famous talk show host goes against the Himba tradition, of which Tjitji adheres to. When she finds out her father is arranging her marriage to a young Himba man, she is faced with a dilemma. Should she abandon her culture to pursue her dream?

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