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7 groundbreaking African films now on Showmax

The African film industry is booming - with a range of films from animation to documentary, the continent is not short of telling diverse stories. If you're unsure of where to start, here's a listing of seven films - which showcase the continent's groundbreaking storytelling and filmmaking.


Two-time Comics’ Choice winner Schalk Bezuidenhout, who also won a Safta for his supporting role in the kykNET comedy Hotel, stars in Kanarie as a small-town boy during Apartheid who is chosen to serve his compulsory two-year military training in the South African Defence Force choir, where he discovers his true self through hardship, camaraderie, first love and the liberating freedom of music.

Charl-Johan Lingenfelder gets personal in his new film Kanarie

Charl-Johan Lingenfelder has been an inspirational tour-de-force as a musician, composer, writer, performer, his heavenly collaboration with director Christiaan Olwagen, Kanarie, is a proudly South African film taking the world by storm...

By Daniel Dercksen 17 Oct 2018

Directed by Christiaan Olwagen (Johnny Is Nie Dood Nie), Kanarie won the 2019 Safta for Best Script and five 2018 Silwerskermfees Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.

Indiewire named Kanarie one of the 14 Best LGBTQ International Films of 2018, while The Los Angeles Times praised it as a “rich, poignant and finely observed musical-drama” and The Hollywood Reporter as “a winning combination of thoughtfulness and exuberance.”


Zog tells the tale of a keen but accident-prone dragon who gets himself into mischief while learning how to fly, roar and breathe fire in his first three years at Dragon School. Each year, he meets a kindly young girl who patches up his bumps and bruises, but can she help him with his trickiest challenge yet: it's Year Four and he has to capture a princess!

Animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish (the Oscar-nominated Revolting Rhymes) and co-directed by South African Daniel Snaddon (the multi-award-winning Stick Man), Zog is based on the bestselling Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler picture book. Since premiering on BBC at Christmas, Zog has won Best Animation at Shanghai International TV Festival and the Audience Award: Ages 3-6 at New York International Children’s Film Festival.

“Once this has been added…you may never be allowed to watch anything else again on your TV – ever!” – The Guardian

Whispering Truth To Power

With exclusive, behind-the-scenes access, Whispering Truth To Power charts the final year in office of South African anti-corruption champion Thuli Madonsela as she attempts to seek justice for ordinary people. After successfully challenging President Jacob Zuma for illegal use of state funds, she faces the biggest challenge of her career: exposing the systematic takeover of government by a private family in cahoots with the president.

Directed by Shameela Seedat, Whispering Truth To Power won the Special Jury Prize at Hot Docs, North America’s most important documentary festival, among other awards. The jury praised “its timely portrait of a bad-ass public servant (Thuli Madonsela) who uses her office for good at a pivotal moment in South African politics.”


In a desperate effort to find healing, five women in a self-help group find themselves on the Orange River on adventure therapy. What’s the worst that can happen?

Q&A with Ivan Botha about directorial debut Stroomop

Actor, writer, and producer Ivan Botha chats about about his directorial debut Stroomop as well as the inspirational women in his life, filming in water, and collaborative writing.

By Daniel Dercksen 16 Aug 2018

Ivan Botha’s directorial debut, starring his wife DonnaLee Roberts (Pad Na Jou HartVir Altyd), Stroomop was the second most popular local film at the South African box office in 2018. 

The adventure story also won Best Feature Film at WorldFest Houston 2019 and Safta awards for Best Supporting Actress (Ilse Klink from Isidingo) and Best Makeup and Hairstyling (Minuche Bridgette Snyman). 


Liyana is a genre-defying documentary that tells the story of five children in the Kingdom of Eswatini who, with some guidance from South African storyteller Gcina Mhlope, turn past trauma into an original fable about a girl named Liyana, who embarks on a perilous quest to save her young twin brothers.

The film weaves her animated journey together with poetic documentary scenes to create an inspiring tale of perseverance and hope.

Winner of 35 awards, Liyana is the directorial debut of Swaziland-born and raised Aaron Kopp, who shot the Oscar-winning documentary Saving Face and the Oscar-nominated The Hunting Ground. It’s executive produced by Emmy-winner Thandie Newton (Westworld), produced by Oscar-winner Daniel Junge (Saving Face) and edited by Davis Coombe (Chasing CoralChasing Ice).

Nigerian Shofela Coker created the stunning animated artwork, while South African Philip Miller composed the score.

Entertainment Weekly hailed it as “Gorgeous. Unlike any documentary you’ve ever seen,” while The Hollywood Reporter praised it as “A lyrical work, as bright and captivating as it is poignant.”

Stories Of Our Lives

Created by The Nest Collective, Stories Of Our Lives is a multi-award-winning anthology of five short films about the queer experience in Kenya, co-produced by South Africa’s Big World Cinema.

“Brave and beautiful filmmaking, based on true stories that cannot fail to touch each one of us," – Teddy Award jury, Berlin International Film Festival.

“A fresh, warm, visually ravishing look at queer life in East Africa,” – The Hollywood Reporter. 

“A beautiful little film about love,” – Shadow & Act. 

Ellen: Die Storie Van Ellen Pakkies

In 2007, the death of 20-year-old Abie Pakkies created a stir in South Africa and the world. The most disturbing part of the case was that the murderer was his mother, Ellen.

Amy Jephta on writing the screenplay for Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story

Writer Amy Jephta shares a few thoughts with Daniel Dercksen about writing the screenplay for Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story...

By Daniel Dercksen 6 Sep 2018

Based on that disturbing true story, Ellen was the third most popular local film at the South African box office in 2018, despite its harrowing storyline about a mother’s unflinching love for her drug-addicted son.

As Abie and Ellen, Jarrid Geduld and Jill Levenberg won both the Safta and Silwerskermfees awards for Best Actor and Best Actress respectively. Ellen also won Best Director (Daryn Joshua from Noem My Skollie) and Best Score (Quinn Lubbe) at the Saftas as well as Best Script (Amy Jephta) at Silwerskermfees.

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Read more: ShowMax, Stroomop, Kanarie