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10 African Female Directors You Should Know

They are behind some of the best films

BY Agnes Amondi

Dec 08, 2022, 11:31 AM

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We brought you the coverage of the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF) which happened between November 24 and 28 in Harare, Zimbabwe. It was a celebration of women in film and a venue through which the event raised awareness of women's issues.

The 19th edition might have lapsed but we continue to highlight the works of some of the best in the industry. We go behind the scenes to bring you 10 African female film directors who are behind some of the best films honoured at the biggest festivals in the world. 

You might have heard of some while other names might be new to you. If that’s the case, it’s never too late or a bad time to come across a new filmmaker and movie. 

Without further ado, here are the 10 African female film directors you should know. 

1. Wanuri Kahiu (Kenya)

You’ve probably heard of her after the brouhaha surrounding her LGBTQ-supporting film ‘Rafiki’ which was featured at the Cannes Festival in 2019. Before this, she already made other critically acclaimed films like From a Whisper which scooped several awards at the Africa Movie Academy Awards. Other films she’s made include Looking Both Ways, Pumzi and The Thing About Jellyfish among others.

2. Seko Shamte (Tanzania)

Tanzania is known for its sensual musical flavour commonly referred to as Bongo. Not much is heard about its film industry, something that Seko Shamte aims at changing. She’s worked with some big brands in media including CNN’s Inside Africa series and now has her own production company named Alkemist Media.

Some of the works she’s produced include ‘The A Team Tanzania’, a cooking show ‘Jikoni na Marion’ and a feature film ‘Homecoming’. She directed the movie ‘Binti’ that’s now on the global streaming platform Netflix. 

3. Malaika Mushandu (Zimbabwe)

Malaika at Alliance Francaise
Malaika Mashandu made her name a while back when she was crowned Miss Zimbabwe in 2011. She finished 9th in the Miss World pageant. At the time, she reportedly studied Motion Pictures Medium and Live Performance.

She made her film directing debut with the award-winning film ‘Mirage’, that’s been christened the ‘Prison Break’ of Africa. The film, which has a female-led cast has received critical acclaim. At the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF), she won the Best Feature Film award.

4. Kemiyondo Coutinho (Uganda)

Also referred to as Kemi, she made her film debut in 2018 with the production of Kyenvu. The film won the Oscar Qualifying for Best Short Film at the Pan African Film Festival that year and became the first Ugandan to qualify for an Oscar award.

She’s made the Forbes list of 30 Under 30 Creatives and was also listed among OkayAfrica’s 100 women. 

5. Francoise Ellong (Cameroon)

Francoise Ellong is a Cameroon-Benin film director, born in 1988 in Doula Cameroon. Her first shot at writing came when she was 11 years old when she participated in a French-speaking writers competition.

In 2006, she released her first film Les Colocs. In 2013, she directed her first feature film W.A.K.A, which was feted in several awards including the Dikalo Awards, and a Special Jury Prize at the Festival du Cinema Africain de Khouribga.

Her latest film ‘Buried’ was released in 2020 and highlights issues of power, trauma and sexual abuse. It is one of the films screened at the International Images Film Festival for Women 2022. 

Other productions directed by Francoise Ellong include ‘The North Wing’, ‘Rachel’s Last Call’ and ‘At Close Range’

6. Nosipho Dumisa (South Africa)

Nosipho’s debut film Nommer 37 was the first South African film in more than 10 years to be screened at the South by South West (SXSW). It’s also been shown at the Silwerskerm Film Festival. She’s also received the Cheval Noir Jury Prize for Best Director at the Fantasia International Film Festival. She worked with Netflix on the series ‘Blood & Water.

7. Ntombizodwa Masuku (Zimbabwe)

Ntombizodwa Masuku at Alliance Francaise Harare
Ntombi’s interest in film began when she was six years old. She did stage acting and plays and realised she loved it. In high school, she did an internship in a media house and finally made up her mind about pursuing film. 

She settled for a role behind the camera and joined AFDA where she specialised in screenwriting and directing. She’s put her skills to the test and directed ‘In The Morning’ a film that captures domestic violence in the upper-class level of society.

8. Jessie Chisi (Zambia)

Chisi’s first film ‘Between Rings’, which evolved from a pitch she made titled ‘Woman on Hold’, was her film directing debut. It tells the story of her cousin Esther Phiri, a boxer who was split between choosing her career and boxing. 

She followed that with another production of 2016 titled Imagination and later, worked on Zambia’s first telenovela, Zuba. One of her recent works is ‘Remedy’, a film that tells Zambians’ experience of COVID-19.

9. Dr Anne Mungai (Kenya)

Image Courtesy: Nation Africa
She is considered to be one of Kenya’s most influential women in film, an award she bagged at The Woman in Film Awards. 

Her interest in film started in high school and pursued the discipline further to tell the story of the African woman. From her perspective, those who told stories about African women only portrayed them as being helpless.

Her first feature film ‘Saikati’ released in 1992 propelled her to international fame. Unlike most films of the time, she portrayed the African woman as progressive, something rarely seen at the time.  She won numerous awards like the UNICEF Awards for Best Projection of an African Woman’s Image.

Other films she’s made include Tough Choices, Promises of Love and Don’t Cry Child of Africa among others.

10. Akosua Adoma Owusu (Ghanaian-American)

Most of the Ghanaian work centres around exploring the identities of black immigrants in America. She has a wide body of work starting with her debut film Ajube Kete in 2005.

Her works have been screened at several international festivals globally including the Locarno International Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival and the NewYork Film Festival among others. Other films she’s made include White Afro, Mahogany Too and Kwaku Ananse.