Two of the year’s biggest films pertaining to the continent make their world premieres this month at the 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival. Disney’s Queen of Katwe tells the true story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga), while Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom dramatizes the real-life romance of Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), and his English wife, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike).
But Queen of Katwe and A United Kingdom aren’t the only African and Diasporan-related projects at TIFF.
Nigeria in particular may very well walk away as the big winner of TIFF this year. A special City to City spotlight on Lagos brings an unprecedented eight Nigerian films to the official lineup. In the coming days expect to see plenty of mingling between Nollywood’s brightest stars and Hollywood elite. A world where Rita Dominic mingles alongside Leonardo DiCaprio is real. And it’s happening this week in The 6.
David Oyelowo couldn’t be more excited about it. “I’m a very very proud Nigeria,” the TIFF superstar said to a crowd of fellow Nigerians this week in Toronto. “We’re about to be number one!” he roared.
The Nairobi creative scene will also have a moment to shine. Jim Chuchu and the Nest Collective’s Kenyan crime drama Tuko Macho is screening as part of a special primetime program celebrating the best in international television.
Of course, this is only the tip of the TIFF iceberg. As with pop music in 2016, it seems that one of the world’s premier film platforms has their eyes tuned to the the Continent.
Below, we take a look at 20 feature-length films and documentaries to watch out for at TIFF 2016.
Director: Amma Asante
Country: United Kingdom
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike
British-Ghanaian director Amma Asante’s historical biopic has been on our radar since 2013. A United Kingdom, starring David Oyelowo and Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike, is one of the highest-profile films debuting at TIFF this year. The interracial romance tells the true story of Botswana’s first president, Seretse Khama, and his English wife, Ruth Williams. It hits UK theaters on November 25th.
Director: Yousry Nasrallah
Cast: Laila Eloui, Menna Shalaby, Bassem Samra
Egyptian film vet Yousry Nasrallah’s comedy tells the story of the Al-Tabakh family, a labouring-class clan of cooks specializing in wedding receptions in the Egyptian village of Belqas, and the romantic entanglements that ensue.
Director: Raja Amari
Countries: France / Tunisia
Cast: Hiam Abbass, Sarra Hannachi, Salim Kechiouche
Tunisian writer-director Raja Amari’s fourth feature tells the story of Samia (Sarra Hannachi), a young woman who seeks refuge from her Islamist radical brother whom she informed on and flees Tunisia in the aftermath of the Jasmine Revolution. She arrives in France, where she discovers a new world of hope and danger.
Director: Mbithi Masya
Countries: Kenya / Germany
Cast: Nyokabi Gethaiga, Elsaphan Njora
Kenyan writer-director and Just A Band member Mbithi Masya’s feature film debut is easily the most afrofuturistic offering at TIFF this year. The film is the fifth feature produced within the One Fine Day Film Workshop initiative, which you may know from previous titles Soul Boy, Nairobi Half Life, Something Necessary and Veve.
Kati Kati tells the story of Kaleche, a young amnesiac who wakes up in the middle of the wilderness with no idea how she got there. She makes her way to Kati Kati, a nearby lodge, where she meets a motley crew of residents under the leadership of Thoma, whom Kaleche strikes up a quick and intense friendship with him. She soon discovers there’s a lot more to Thoma and the mysterious Kati Kati…
Director: Oliver Laxe
Countries: Spain / Morocco / France / Qatar
Cast: Ahmed Hammoud, Shakib Ben Omar, Said Aagli, Ikram Anzouli, Ahmed El Othemani, Hamid Fardjad
French-born, Morocco-based director Oliver Laxe walked away with the grand prize at Cannes Critics’ Week in May. Billed as an “Eastern Western,” Mimosas follows a caravan transporting the body of a sheik to his remote resting place in the perilous wilderness of the Moroccan desert.
Director: Mira Nair
Countries: Uganda / South Africa
Cast: Madina Nalwanga, Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo
Will Disney’s Ugandan chess prodigy biopic live up to all the hype? We’ll soon find out. At long last, Queen of Katwe makes its world premiere at TIFF. Directed by Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair and based on a book by Sports Illustrated writer Tim Crothers, the film tells the story of Phiona Mutesi (newcomer Madina Nalwanga), a then ten-year-old girl living in the Kampala slum of Katwe, who would go on to become one of the best chess players in the world. Lupita Nyong’o stars as Mutesi’s mother, Harriet, while David Oyelowo plays Mutesi’s soccer-player-turned-missionary chess mentor, Robert Katende. Katwe opens in U.S. theaters on September 23.
Director: Rahmatou Keïta
Countries: Niger / Burkina Faso / France
Cast: Magaajyia Silberfeld, Aïchatou Moussa, Aïchatou Lamine Fofana, Salamatou Kimba Farinwata, Harouna Amoud, Yazi Dogo, Mariam Kaba, Kudzo Do Tobias, Theo Kleiner
Nigerien writer-director Rahmatou Keïta’s drama/romance tells the story of Tiyaa (Magaajyia Silberfeld), a young woman who returns home to the Sultanate of Zinder (Niger) after completing her degree abroad. The young woman, suffering from the pain of a lost love, finds renewal while awaiting the mystical promise of a new moon.
Director: Akin Omotoso
Country: South Africa
Cast: Mncedisi Shabangu, Zimkhitha Nyoka, Nomonde Mbusi, Sihle Xaba, Warren Masemola, Sibusiso Msimang, Azwile Chamane
Nigerian-born, South Africa-based director Akin Omotos makes his TIFF return with a new drama that weaves together three separate portraits of small-town characters in Johannesburg and Soweto.
Director: Daouda Coulibaly
Countries: France / Senegal
Cast: Ibrahim Koma, Inna Modja, Ismaël N’Diaye, Jean-Marie Traoré, Habib Dembélé, Mariame N’Diaye, Quim Gutierrez, Olivier Rabourdin
Set in 2007 Bamako, Malian-French director Daouda Coulibaly’s debut political crime thriller tells the story of a low-level transit worker turned drug trafficker (Ladji, played by Ibrahim Koma), whose rapid ascent in Bamako’s criminal underworld entangles him with the military, the government, and eventually al-Qaeda. The film was initially pitched as a “Malian Scarface.” Look out for singer Inna Modja’s starring turn as Ladji’s sister, Ami.
Director: Hubert Davis
Oscar-nominated Canadian filmmaker Hubert Davis’ basketball documentary hits close to home at TIFF. Giants of Africa tells the story of Nigerian-born Toronto Raptors general manager and NBA bawss, Masai Ujiri, and his work creating opportunity on the Continent through basketball via Giants of Africa, a program which uses the sport to educate and enrich the lives of underprivileged African youth.
Director: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
Countries: France / Chad
Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s non-fiction debut captures the testimonies of the victims of Chad’s former president, Hissène Habré, who in 2016 was tried and convicted of sexual slavery, torture and the ordered killing of 40,000 people. The political doc had its world premiere back in May at Cannes.
Director: Lutz Gregor
Fatoumata Diawara is the star of German filmmaker Lutz Gregor’s latest doc, which follows the world-famous singer and Timbuktu actor as she returns home to perform at her first concert in Mali, the 2015 Festival of the Niger, since Islamic extremists imposed sharia law over a large swath of northern Mali in 2012.
City to City Spotlight: Lagos
Director: Izu Ojukwu
Cast: Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic, Chidi Mokeme, Ibinabo F iberisima, Larry Williams, Adonija Owiriwa, Daniel K. Daniel, Memry Savanhu, Pat Nebo, Debo Oguns, Adams Shuaibu
Nigerian director Izu Ojukwu’s new film is a drama set against the backdrop of the attempted 1976 military coup against the government of General Murtala Mohammed. It stars Nollywood big names Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic and Chidi Mokeme.
Director: Steve Gukas
Cast: Danny Glover, Bimbo Akintola, Somkele Idhalama, Tim Reid, Alastair Mackenzie, Keppy Ekpenyong, Abimbola Mary-Anne Akintola, Okeke Gideon Echezonachi, Bassey-Inyang Ekpenyong Edet, Sylvia Ngozi Ezeokafor
Nigerian filmmaker Steve Gukas’ medical thriller looks absolutely terrifying. 93 Days centers on a group of doctors and health care workers in Lagos battling the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Danny Glover, a longtime supporter of African cinema, co-stars as Benjamin Ohiaeri, a doctor on the verge of retirement when the virus hits.
Director: Niyi Akinmolayan
Cast: O.C Ukeje, Adesua Etomi, Iretiola Doyle, Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, Sola Fosudo
Niyi Akinmolayan’s latest is a courtroom drama about lust, betrayal and corporate ambition set against a high-profile sexual assault case in Lagos.
Director: Abba Makama
Cast: Ifeanyi Dike, Jamal Ibrahim, Samuel Robinson, Crystabel Goddy, Okey Uzeoshi, Bimbo Manuel, Eric Didie, Donatus Ekwuazi, Donald Jonah, Meg Otanwa, Abubakar Yakubu, Dabis Christopher, Omoye Uzamere
What does it mean to be Nigerian? Such is the question at the heart of Abba Makama’s new comedy, which follows a group of three friends––each representing one of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups––as they set out to make a film inspired by Nigeria’s history.
Director: Uduak-Obong Patrick
Cast: Judith Audu, Stan Nze, Rotimi Salami, Roland Obutu, Brutus Richard
Uduak-Obong Patrick’s crime comedy tells the story of a promising but broke undergrad (Stan Nze) striving to escape the slums. He finds himself in over his head when his modest criminal enterprise goes a bit too far.
Director: Omoni Oboli
Cast: Omoni Oboli, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Ufuoma McDermott, Toyin Aimakhu, Richard Mofe Damijo, Ken Erics, Gabriel Afolayan, Halima Abubakar, Mary Lazarus, Yvonne Jegede, Betty Iraboh, Uche Nnaji
So, what exactly is Okafor’s Law? It’s the law of “repeatable” action: if you’ve done something once, you can do it again. Okafor’s Law applies the same logic to sex. Nollywood star Omoni Oboli’s sex comedy tells the story of a “slick serial seducer” (Blossom Chukwujekwu) who bets his friends (Gabriel Afolayan and Ken Erics) he can sleep with three old flames in six weeks.
Director: Daniel Emeke Oriahi
Cast: Femi Jacobs, Ijeoma Grace Agu, Odunlade Adekola, Afeez (Saka) Oyetoro
Going off the trailer, Daniel Emeke Oriahi’s Lagos noir crime comedy looks mad slick. It tells the story of a small-town mechanic turned chauffeur (Femi Jacobs) for the mob who gets caught up in the troubles of a beautiful sex worker (Ijeoma Grace Agu).
Director: Kemi Adetiba
Cast: Banky Wellington, Adesua Etomi, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Iretiola Doyle, Atunyota Akpobome, Sola Sobowale, Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, Olusola Abiodun Sobowale
Music video superstar director Kemi Adetiba’s star-studded romcom tells the story of a 24-year-old art gallery owner (Adesua Etomi) who’s about to marry the love of her life, IT entrepreneur Dozie (Banky W), and the chaos that ensues at their wedding. The Wedding Party is the latest feature-film production from Nigerian media mogul Mo Abudu’s EbonyLife Films.
The 41st annual Toronto International Film Festival takes place through September 18th.