When will Africa begin to tell its own stories? When? It appears every other continent is ‘coming in’ and telling African stories the way they see it. Africa has long been portrayed in film as a continent that needs “saving” because Africans are spineless, violent, diseased, and helpless.
Joining the ranks of notorious non-African storytellers in film is the new Chinese movie, Wolf Warrior 2, which basically shows a Chinese superhuman in Africa, kicking-serious-rebel-ass and saving the day, while fighting and surviving an obscure disease. This movie is currently the highest grossing movie in China, racking in $687.5 million in its first two weeks.
It is very important that African stories are told, to expose the truths and realities of the continent, but it must be done objectively. Some movies that have successfully done this are “Hotel Rwanda; Africa Region: Algiers; Liberia: An Uncivil War; War Witch; and The Last King of Scotland. So, it is understandably frustrating to continually have movies with ‘foreign’ heroes that use Africa and Africans as a colorful backdrop. But realistically, Africa can complain all it wants at the perceived failure of others to objectively depict the continent (in film and other mediums), but until many Africans do something about it, there will be no change in this flawed (yet factual) perception of the continent.
To facilitate change, Africans must continually participate in finding actual solutions to the many challenges facing the continent. Africa can certainly do with a change in mentality and responsible leadership. And as it relates to film, for an actionable “tiny” contribution against this cliche story telling, I have a suggestion. Can Nollywood and other movie industries across Africa find a script that depicts an indigenous alternative for an international audience? I am referring to movies such as Machine Gun Preacher, Tears of the Sun, Black Hawk Down and Wolf Warrior 2. In other words, can we have movies of African commandos, elite special forces, and heroes saving the day in Africa and other continents?
PS: If you do not know and cannot tell people who you are, they will tell you who you are.
Written by Chisom Udeze