Professional / Visual Arts & Film Studies Essay


African Cinema and Human Rights

Film production; a tunnel of meaningful communication, is often construed by figments of the imagination, occurrences that often shatter or elevate individual comfort or both! Films came as a means of revolt, a response to repudiation, or a satirical means of exposing societal flaws. But, what stands as a chimerical definition of African cinema and how does it affect daily living?

African cinema is a way of cultural identity. It is the voice of Africans. It is telling the African story in innumerable, African ways, not with the colonialist perspective. It is a response to the white-dominated field of storytelling. African cinema is a part of Africa's beauty. Through film production, stories are heard. It started in the twentieth century when film reels were the predominant cinematic technology.

The African story is told in different ways, African cinema varies, according to region, country, or ethnic group that tells a story in a distinct habit. The cinema was a tool for the redemption of a misplaced and misinterpreted history. As we have it, the cinema in Egypt is "one of the oldest in the world", with the first short documentary filmed by Egyptians in 1907. From there, other countries began to develop cinemas, highlighting the importance of an African story.

African cinema evolved. It turned to an avenue of fighting against injustices, cruel nature of dictators, and more importantly, a voice on human rights abuse. This method gathered momentum during the post-colonial era. Although the narrative of cinema within Africa, at the time, based on issues affecting Africans that succumbs under the umbrella of human rights. Therefore, let's take a look at three distinct, yet profound films that successfully tells a tale of misuse —within the cocoon of human rights.

How Human Rights Have been Portrayed in African Cinema

The lens of African cinema has given outstanding samples of the African picture of scarring events. These events come as a reminisce of history, exposing ineffable flaws of a government. Human rights are inalienable liberties. When they are trampled on, the voice becomes sacrosanct and laudable. Film production is a voice of inducement, uprise, and liberation. Film production in Africa has developed groundbreaking strategies for exposing the myriad of deformities that linger around.

Somewhere in Africa

Somewhere in Africa was produced by Kwame Boadu and Frank Rajah Arase (and directed by the latter), in 2012. The film is a general overview of autocratic rules in Africa. It tells the story of General Mumbasa, a military despot who singlehandedly overthrows the democratic government. This can be likened to the several numbers of military dictatorships that have taken place in Africa; such is the military rule of Idi Amin in Uganda, long strife of military governance in Nigeria, Egypt, etc. We may also associate this with Mugabe's excessive rule in Zimbabwe.

General Mumbasa is opposed by Mrs. Archiblong, a secondary school teacher, who leads a civil rights movement that opposes his government. In the face of opposition, Mumbasa is brutal. He kills Mrs. Archiblong in front of her daughter, also kills her daughter years later, and amputates, rapes and tortures other protesters. The film eventually ends with the overthrow of Mumbasa's government and the freedom of political leaders.

The film adequately captures the plight of many African countries during regimes. This is one African story that has been vastly spread among individuals and gained the glamour of the international community.

Bloody Night

Bloody Night is a 2014 film produced by Charles Offor and directed by Emma Aniekwe that orchestrates the illegal activities of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a department of the Nigerian Police force in Eastern Nigeria. The film tells the story of Fimba, Kelvin, and Nwanneka. These three are accosted by SARS officials on their way from a club at late hours. Unfortunately, Fimba is shot and taken to the hospital by these officials based on Dr. Okon's vindication. Sadly, Fimba dies and in a bid to cover up their atrocity, SARS operatives label Fimba, Kelvin, and Nwanneka as armed robbers. Dr. Okon is threatened to provide a false statement and the victims are locked up.

However, Nwanneka is bailed because of her influence, which is her rich father, and she seeks to expose the defaulting officials. Later on, Dr. Okon, meets face to face, his fears and confesses the truth, the perpetrators are convicted under the law, prosecuted and capital punishment is pronounced on them. Fimba, Kelvin, and Nwanneka are cleared of all robbery charges.

Born This Way

Born this way is a 2013 documentary by Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann. It deals with the lives of gays, lesbians, bisexualsAfrican Cinema and Human Rights, and transgender —the LGBT community — in a homophobic Cameroon. The documentary gives us intimate access to the lives of gays that resonates with brutal treatment. Their lives have been captured within the catacombs of an underground hideout.

The power of African cinema lies in the actions of others; it cannot be underestimated. African cinema is an influencer of life in the African terrain.

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