Ten classic African films selected by critics during Tarifa-Tangiers African Film Festival (FCAT)

On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Tarifa-Tangiers African Film Festival (FCAT), a festival dedicated to promoting and “subtitling the most relevant cinema productions” from the african continent, Fotogramas published the first top 10 of the best African films in history according to the widely acclaimed critics.

FCAT concluded its week long activities, on 5 May, in Tarifa, Spain and this year, the organisation commissioned a group of 10 acclaimed critics and authorities on film to vote on what they believe are the best African films in the history of cinema.

The film critics who created the list come from a number of backgrounds and countries and include professors like Aboubacar Demba Cissokho flm critic at the Senegalese Press Agency (APS), Samir Ardjoum (Algeria) film critic in several Algerian and international media specialized in African cinema, Manu Yáñez (Spain) film critic in Frames, and Djia Mambu (Congo-Belgium) film critic and co-founder of Awotele, a magazine specialized in African film critic, to name a few.

Their choices include selections from across the continent, with quite a number coming from Senegal and Mauritania. At the top of the list is Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki (1973), the classic Senegalese film which has inspired even Beyoncé. It has been hailed as the best African film in history which marked a turning point in African cinema with “an avant-garde aesthetic.”

Still from Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki. Courtesy: FCAT/Flickr

Yeelen (Light) by the Malian director Souleymane Cissé from 1987 which has been described as “visually brilliant”, is the second on the most voted list of the critics.

Still from Yeelen (Light) by  Souleymane Cissé. Courtesy: FCAT/Flickr

La noire de …‘ (1966), by the Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène, the first film made by an African director that addresses the issue of racism came third on the list.

Still from ‘La noire de …’  by Ousmane Sembène. Courtesy: FCAT/Flickr

In fourth place is Teza by Haile Gerima (Ethiopia, 2008) a drama film about the Derg period in Ethiopia. Teza won the top award at the 2009 Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou.

Still from Teza by Haile Gerima. Courtesy: FCAT/Flickr

Daratt (Dry Season) by Mahamat Saleh Haroun (Chad, 2006), coming 5th on the list, was one of seven films from non-Western cultures commissioned by Peter Sellars‘ New Crowned Hope Festival to commemorate the 250th birthday of reverred classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Still from Daratt (Dry Season) by Mahamat Saleh Haroun. Courtesy: FCAT/Flickr

Hyènes by Djibril Diop Mambéty was voted 6th on the list. A 1992 Senegalese story of love and revenge which parallels a critique of neocolonialism and African consumerism, it was entered into the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. 

Hyènes de Djibril Diop Mambéty. Courtesy: FCAT/Flickr

La Vie Sur Terre (Life on Earth) by Abderrahmane Sissako (Mauritania, 1998) is a film set in the village of Sokolo and depicts rural life on the eve of the 21st century. It was voted 7th on the list.

La Vie sur terre by Abderrahmane Sissako

Sarraounia by Med Hondo (Mauritania, 1986) was written and directed by Med Hondo. Based on a novel of the same name by Nigerien author Abdoulaye Mamani, the classic was voted for 8th place.

Sarraounia by Med Hondo

Soleil Ô (Mauritania, 1967) also directed by Med Hondo came in the 9th position. The film said to have been shot over four years with a very low budget, tells the story of a black immigrant who makes his way to Paris in search of “his Gaul ancestors”.

Soleil Ô by Med Hondo

Xala by Ousmane Sembène is a 1975 Senegalese film directed by Ousmane Sembène. It is an adaptation of Sembène’s 1973 novel of the same name. The film, which was placed 10th, depicts El Hadji, a businessman in Senegal, who is cursed with crippling erectile dysfunction upon the day of his marriage to his third wife. The film satirizes the corruption in African post-independence governments.

Xala by Ousmane Sembène