Netflix, UNESCO Discovers New Voices in African Cinema.


In 2021, American streaming platform, Netflix and UN cultural agency UNESCO partnered to launch an innovative short film competition on ‘African Folktales Re-imagined’ across Sub-Saharan Africa. The winners of the competition were trained and mentored by industry professionals and provided with a $75,000 production budget to create short films as an “Anthology of African folktales”.

Following a selection from more than 2000 applications from 13 countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region, six filmmakers were selected. ‘Katera of the Punishment Island’, directed by Ugandan Loukman Ali is among the six short films co-sponsored on the continent by Netflix and UNESCO.

The competition was aimed to discover new voices in African cinema and to give emerging filmmakers in Sub-Saharan Africa visibility on a global scale. It was also to find the bravest, wittiest, and most surprising retellings of some of Africa’s most-loved folktales and share them with entertainment fans across 190 countries in the world.

“Katera of the Punishment Island” is a revenge thriller where a mother turns into a ruthless vigilante, tracking down and drowning a soldier who has killed her baby in an explosion of violence and jubilation.

The 32-year-old director of the short film, Loukman Ali said is a worthy representative of a new generation of African filmmakers, who grew up on a diet of mainstream cinema and “want to be seen by as many as people as possible”, scorning so-called genre films. Loukman explained that he embraced cinema as a form of escapism and a way to forget the poverty surrounding him as he was growing up.

The five other young African filmmakers who were selected by the scheme and also partook in the benefits include “Anyango and the Ogre” by Kenyan Voline Ogutu, Zabin Halima (Halima’s Choice) by Nigerian Korede Azeez, “Katope” by Tanzanian Walt Mzengi Corey, “MaMlambo” by South African Gcobica Yako, and “Enmity Dijnn” by Mauritanian Mohamed Echkouna.

“Enmity Dijnn” is about an ancient Enmity Dijnn who finds himself in an unfamiliar city confronted by a familiar foe, three generations after he was last summoned. “Katope” is about a young child with magical origins who sets out on a journey to help end the drought that is devastating the community, while “MaMlambo” is about a mystical river being that watched over the sacred waters of discarded bodies.

Each of these African filmmakers was partnered with a local production company and was under the guidance of Netflix-appointed supervising producer, Steven Markovish from Big World Cinema. 

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