"Cinematographers and filmmakers make this Anthology an easy and entertaining binge watch."
Highlighting six different African countries African Folktales Reimagined is a new anthology series featured on Netflix. We are taken on a journey across the continent in each episode. Experiencing each tale enriched by unique imagery, intricate stories and language intrinsically connected to each land we encounter. Told with a modern twist this collaboration between Netflix and UNESCO sees each episode with its own individualized style and history.
In 2021 a project to support the next generation of story tellers was announced. There was a call for submissions and over 2,000 applications from 13 countries was the result. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Netflix came together to serve as mentors for six selected new storytellers. The film makers received guidance, a budget of 90,000 dollars and other resources to create their shorts. The winning films include works from Loukman Ali from Uganda, Korede Azeez from Nigeria, Voline Ogutu from Kenya, Mohamed Echkouna from Mauritania, Walter Mzengi from Tanzania and Gcobisa Yako from South Africa.
Reminiscent of HBO’S 2019 Asian “Folklore”, African Folktales Reimagined has a dark side. There is often an evil entity or villain that needs to be defeated to achieve their fairytale ending. Skilled actors, Cinematographers and filmmakers make this Anthology an easy and entertaining binge watch. There are six episodes in total, all under 30 minutes, I definitely have my stand outs, but all are worthy of a watch.
While I will not do an in-depth description of each episode, every title deserves a brief synopsis. Emphasizing what works and calling attention to what could have been improved upon.
Episode 1 - Katera of the Punishment (Film maker, Ali)
Known for his work on “Brotherhood” and “Girl in the Yellow Jumper” the work Ali has done with Katera is without a doubt my favorite out of the 6 episodes. Based on true historical events everything from the lighting to the visuals to the soundtrack is memorable and beautiful in its melancholy. The Plot, young girls who became pregnant out of wedlock are banished to a remote island and left to starve to death.
Episode 2 - Halimas Choice (Film maker, Azeez)
Science fiction and fantasy, this work introduces us to a world where everything Halima’s mind wishes happens. Azeez challenges conventional thinking by having the protagonist go against her father’s wishes and diving into the system of arranged marriages that still occur today. The pros of this story are that there is no predictableness. The story does seem a little Sci Fi heavy but this short is still an amazing contribution.
Episode 3 - Anyango and the Ogre (Film maker, Oguto)
The cast is the best part of this story. Oguto tackles domestic violence and childhood trauma. A community is divided into zones, one for single women and the other for married couples. This is truly a case of “everything that glitters isn’t gold “Truly a commentary on how society views women and motherhood. A thought provoking watch for women and men alike.
Episode 4 - Enmity Djinn (Film maker, Echkouna)
According to Arabic Mythology a Dijinna is a spirit inhabiting the earth. It’s capable of taking various forms and possesses other worldly powers but goes unseen by humans. Echkouna uses very little dialogue in this short. The plot centers on a grandmother who had a traumatizing experience with a Djinn as an infant and 75 years later comes face to face with the entity again. There are definitely notes of horror throughout this intricate tale. Which will be pleasing to those who prefer a little sinister notes in their fairy tales.
Episode 5 - Katope (Film maker, Mzengi)
Mzengi seems to be retelling “The Story of Katope: Boy Created from the Dark” except the “Boy” has been replaced by a Girl. A mother brings drought to the land by molding a daughter from clay. The mother attempts to make amends with the rain God thereby keeping her child safe. Great acting prop us a flawed but emotional story.
Episode 6 - MaMlambo (Film maker, Yako)
Yako lacks a back story in this tale of a young girl who attempts to take her own life but is saved by a river God. Amandas past is filled with violence. She makes a choice to die due to feeling that she cannot combat what is happening to her. The trauma she has endured being largely because she is a woman. This film is about second chances and with a better laid background this short could have been way more impactful.
Overall, the Anthology was interesting, educating and well-acted. However due to each short films limited run time I feel we miss out on the back stories needed to elevate each tale. Rooted in history I do feel African Folktales Reimagined hits its mark. Each short was provocative and held my attention. The collection is the perfect spotlight for new artist while providing representation and passing down stories that teach lessons on life and healing as our ancestors have always done.
Gina n. Johnson is a social commentator, influencer, and content reviewer at Head Nerds In Charge Network.