A Story on African movies that made it to the Oscars

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With the number of movies produced in Africa yearly, one could easily assume that the continent would always feature at international levels and do well to get recognition.

While this might be true to an extent with other awards, it is not so when it comes to the coveted Academy Award popularly referred to as the Oscars because, since its inception in 1948, only three films from Africa have ever won the award for the international feature film which is the category known as best foreign language film before 2020 which allows for films produced in countries outside of the U.S., and outside of the English language.

Though only 3 African movies have won awards, that is not to say that the continent has been ignored completely over the entire time. Far from it, because like other continents, African movies get nominations for the prestigious awards.

Here’s some brief about the movies that have won the award so far and others that got to the nomination stage of the Oscars.

The first African movie that won the Oscars was “Z”, the satirical political thriller from Algeria in 1969.

Ironically, the movie was a fictionalized drama about Greek politics, the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis and the military dictatorship that usurps power.

It was an adaptation of a book by Greek novelist, Vassilis Vassilikos inspired by the events of the coup which took place in Greece in the mid-sixties as the army took control of power.

Most of the scenes were filmed in Algeria in areas similar to the nature of the city of Athens and the letter “Z” was chosen as the title of the film, because it represents a symbolic political connotation in the Greek language, meaning “living.”

It was used by political adversaries of the coup in Greece, as they wrote it on the walls of the Greek cities to denounce the politics of repression and the death of Lambrax.

Then came the second award winner movie, Black and White in colour, seven years after in 1976.

The Ivorian-produced movie was a mix of comedy and war portraying the colonial powers of France and Germany battling it out during World War 1.

And the South African film ” Tsotsi won the award in 2005 making it the third African movie on the list.

However, unlike the previous two movies, Tsotsi became the first African film not made in French to win the award for best foreign language film.

Tsotsi is a crime drama movie which portrayed the life of a young street thug who steals a car only to discover a baby in the back seat leading to a series of dramas.

Though it’s been decades since these movies were produced and won awards, they are still worth seeing.


Yes, it’s only 3 African movies that have won the award so far, but there have been nominations for movies which have got the world seeing Africa in different dimensions.

Some of the movies that have been shortlisted for the Oscars over the years include the following:

Vita N’kuvute’

The Tanzanian movie ‘Vuta N’kuvute’ meaning ‘ tug of war in Swahili was shortlisted for the 2022 Best International Film category.

The movie tells the story of a young Indian-Zanzibari girl whose romance thrives on the back of a political revolt in the dying days of British imperial rule.

Vita N’Kuvute is a story of a people and how they relate with one another. It ties together struggles at all levels of oppression in a colonial society into the history of one person.

The Blue Caftan

The blue caftan from Morocco is about a woman and her gay husband who run a caftan shop in the Sale area.

It explores an unusual love triangle with tenderness and grace with the intimacy of the story brought to life through the captivating performances of the actors.

The movie was shortlisted for the 2023 International Feature Film.

Night of the Kings

Night of the Kings was shortlisted for the 2022 best international feature film. It was the third submission from the Ivory coast that made it to that level since the inception of the awards.

The movie depicts the story of a new arrival to the Ivory Coast prison who was unaware that his storytelling skills will determine whether he lives or not.

Several other movies from various African countries have also been nominated at one point in time or another other but the majority did not scale through either due to stiff competition from other continents or as a result of not meeting up with the stated requirements.

In all, while we cannot say that Africa has done so well in terms of the Oscars award, we can continue to encourage movie producers, directors, actors, and actresses on the continent to continue to put in their best by producing good quality and meaningful movies which will make the continent proud.

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