Okayafrica selects the best African films of 2014, featuring 'Afronauts,' 'Finding Fela,' 'Timbuktu,' 'Miners Shot Down' and more.
Afronauts (dir. Frances Bodomo, Ghana)
Kicking off our list is Afronauts, a project we’ve been fans of since its world premiere at Sundance earlier this year. Directed by Ghanaian writer and filmmaker Frances Bodomo, this short film was inspired by the true story of Zambian schoolteacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso, who dreamed of achieving interstellar travel ahead of the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 1960's Space Race. Nkoloso’s Zambia Space Academy consisted of a ragtag team of astronauts--led by a 17-year old girl named Matha Mwambwa--who received makeshift pre-flight training at a secret location a few miles outside of Lusaka. Sadly, the space program never soared higher than a few mentions in old news clippings, but it garnered enough notoriety to become the stuff of legend, piquing the interest of Bodomo five decades later. Bodomo’s adaptation of Nkoloso's story is a visually stunning affair shot in black and white that situates the efforts of his retro-Afrofuturism a few days ahead of Apollo 11’s successful lunar mission. Afronauts is as political as it is otherworldly and at various points throughout the film, Bodomo touches on issues of empire and colonialism without losing focus on the story of human desire and ambition at the film’s core. Bodomo artfully reconfigures the ahistorical narrative surrounding African ingenuity by showcasing Nkoloso's audacious, albeit far-fetched, rebuttal to the inaccurately held notion of the continent’s stunted technological imagination. Albino model Diandra Forrest shines in the lead role of Matha, the pensive yet intrepid teen on whose shoulders Nkoloso’s (played by Angolan actor Hoji Fortuna) astral odyssey rests. After garnering a slew of accolades on the local and international film festival circuits this year, Bodomo is currently in the process of turning her space age short into a full-length feature film.- Jennifer Sefa-Boakye
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