Africa on the Big Screen

Movies can become synonymous with travel destinations…think The Lord of the Rings for New Zealand, Braveheart for Scotland.  Here are a few notable films we love that showcase Africa.

Out of Africa: 1985 (Kenya)
The film that stirred the safari juices in us all! Winner of 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, this is a biographical movie about Karen Blixen, Danish author and humanitarian, and her life in Kenya during British rule. Stars Meryl Street & Robert Redford

The Ghost and the Darkness: 1996 (Kenya, South Africa)
The story of the man-eating lions of Tsavo, Kenya, during the building of the Mombasa/Nairobi Railway. A well-made nail biter starring Val Kilmer & Michael Douglas. Even though the story is set in Kenya, the film was shot primarily on a game reserve in South Africa due to tax laws.

Kilimanjaro: 2002 (Tanzania) – an IMAX production and on DVD
A must see for anyone considering hiking to the rooftop of Africa!

Tsotsi: 2005 (South Africa)
The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film is set in Soweto, one of South Africa’s townships just outside of Johannesburg. Tsotsi is a troubled teen who steals a car and inadvertently ends up having to look after the baby that was in it.

Invictus: 2009 (South Africa)
Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon

African Queen: 1951 (Congo, Uganda)
A classic adventure starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart and filmed on location in Uganda and the Congo, the movie is about a drunken riverboat captain (Bogart) who takes a missionary spinster (Hepburn) on board his boat and much adventure and banter ensues.

The Last King of Scotland: 2006 (Uganda)
A young doctor working in Uganda finds himself unwittingly picked as the personal physician to one of the world’s most brutal dictators, Idi Amin. Forest Whitaker plays Idi Amin and he won a best acting Oscar for his incredible performance.

Ladies #1 Detective Agency (Botswana)
This beloved book series penned by Alexander McCall Smith has been brought to life on the little screen. Precious Ramotswe uses her good senses and feminine intuition to crack cases both comical and heart wrenching. A fun insight into modern-day Botswana. An HBO series also available on DVD and filmed entirely in Botswana.

Mad Max Fury Road: 2015 (Namibia)
The 4th installment in the Mad Max franchise and is set in a future desert wasteland where gasoline and water are scarce commodities. Stars South African-born actress Charlize Theron who leads enslaved apocalypse survivors in a daring escape from a tyrannical ruler with the help of Mad Max (played by Tom Hardy). The movie was filmed in Namibia after rains turned the Australian desert outback into a lush field of wild flowers.

Hotel Rwanda: 2004 (Uganda/Rwanda)
This heart wrenching film will restore your faith in humanity as a Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabinga, a humanitarian hotel manager in Kigali who saved hundreds of Tutsi and Hutu refugees from certain death during the genocide. Born a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother, Paul put his own life in danger to save his fellow countrymen from marauding militia members who looked to tear the country apart. This film was shot on location in Kigali, Rwanda and Johannesburg, South Africa.

Blood Diamond: 2006 (Mozambique/South Africa)
Leonardo DiCaprio plays a rogue mercenary in this film set in war tone Sierra Leone in 1999. He teams up with Solomon Vandy, played by Djimon Hounsou, who plays a Mende fisherman, to recover a huge pink diamond that will set them both free from their different sets of problems. There is war, love for family, moral gray areas and conflict in this film. It portrays an ugly side of Africa and humanity as whole, it does however portray exceptionally beautiful terrain in Mozambique and South Africa.

Yesterday: 2004 (South Africa)
Filmed in the sweeping landscapes of the Bergville region of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, this is a beautiful and heart-wrenching story of a gentle Zulu woman coming to terms with AIDS in her family.

The Constant Gardener: 2005 (Kenya)
Shot in Nairobi, this is the story of Justin Quayle, played by Ralph Fiennes. Quayle was a UK diplomat trying to explain his wife’s murder. His wife, played by Rachael Weisz, was an amnesty activist who was investigating a dangerous drug trial that would have implicated and exposed the torrid malpractices of a huge pharmaceutical company. The film feature Kibera, Kenya’s massive slum and beautiful shots of Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital as well as the vast Lake Turkana region.

The Gods Must Be Crazy: 1980 (Botswana)
This heartwarming and hilarious movie is set in Botswana’s Kalahari desert and follows the story of Xi, a San bushman whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond. His story humorously intertwines with the lives of a biologist who analyzes manure samples for his PhD dissertation, and a newly-hired school teacher in a bush village. The film is the first in the series and it broke all box office records for a foreign film in the United States.

Nowhere in Africa: 2001 (Kenya)
This highly-awarded film tells the story of the life in Kenya of a German-Jewish family that immigrated there in 1938 to escape persecution in Nazi Germany. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film

District 9: 2009 (South Africa)
Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 sci-fi blockbuster was filmed exclusively in Soweto township in Johannesburg. Aliens come to Earth as refugees from their own dying planet and are separated from humans and retained in District 9. The film’s marketing campaign went viral as it captured attention with billboards and bus shelters with signs reading ‘Bus Stop for Humans Only’.