New to Netflix from today is a series of six short films, courtesy of six different filmmakers from across Africa. The shorts – which run anywhere between 13-minutes and 27-minutes in length – are grouped together under the banner heading of African Folktales Reimagined, and tell a range of stories, via a mix of different genres.
The first three shorts include Katera of the Punishment Island, which is written and directed by Loukman Ali; Halima’s Choice from writer/director Korede Azeez; and Anyango and the Ogre, written and directed by Voline Ogutu. Meanwhile, short number four is Enmity Djinn directed by Mohamed Echkouna; five is Katope, which is directed and co-written by Walt Mzengi Corey; while the final short is Mamlambo, from writer/director Gcobisa Yako.
None of the shorts are directly connected, however, there is a strong female focus across the entire anthology. Female leads become the centre point of all the stories, with prominent cast members including Kababiito Tracy, Habiba Ummi Mohammed, Sarah Hassan, Rahele Matete, and Simphiwe Dana.
The aim of these shorts is to tell unique stories, that would probably go untold if not for a platform such as Netflix. African Folktales Reimagined was created as part of a partnership between Netflix and UNESCO, and according to the streaming service, the film series was launched “to support the next generation of storytellers.”
Each of the directors involved with the films were given a budget of $90,000, along with some guidance from established filmmakers. Over 2000 creators filled in applications for the funding, with six filmmakers ultimately chosen to produce the shorts that are now available to stream.
As for the shorts themselves, they serve up a range of different tales, from an encounter with a mysterious rain bird in Katope, to a sci-fi-tinged discussion about A.I. in Halima’s Choice. As with all anthology series, some work better than others, but across the board it is good to see some diversity in terms of themes and subject matter.
For me, the three shorts that stand out as the strongest are Katera of the Punishment Island, Anyango and the Ogre, and Mamlambo. The first borrows elements rather effectively from the Western genre; the second provides an interesting look at domestic violence; while the latter opens up a conversation about gender-based violence toward women.
Each of these shorts tells a fairly clear tale, with Katera of the Punishment Island and Anyango and the Ogre also offering up some strong imagery. Some of the shots in both films are excellent, and really help to capture the tone of each piece.
As for the remaining three shorts, each has its own charms, but they don’t quite match their peers. However, as with all shorts, it often comes down to individual tastes, and I’m sure some audiences will better connect with the stories that didn’t quite work for me.
Overall, the six film shorts included in African Folktales Reimagined offer something to get your teeth into, and even if a few don’t quite hit the spot, it is good to see Netflix pushing new projects like this, and developing emerging talent. The streaming platform has been serving up some lacklustre material as of late, which is often devoid of any creativity, so it is good to see it taking a few risks with these shorts.
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One Response to Review: African Folktales Reimagined (2023)
Initially, I was extremely excited to watch the series. Unfortunately, I can only make it through the first three episodes. Despite excellent casting, flawless wardrobe and excellent production, the storylines were all the same. Instead of using this opportunity to bring to light ancient African folklore, Netflix coerced these directors and writers to push their extreme feminist agendas.
Make no mistake about it I understand that many African women are at a disadvantage in the male dominated African continent. But make no mistake about it, this was America’s opportunity to push their extreme agenda in Africa. If you were looking for African stories that made you reflect and appreciate your African heritage, you will be greatly disappointed. This was a blown opportunity. But would you expect from the elite controlled Netflix company?