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UNESCO-Netflix: Global launch of short films “African Folk Tales Reimagined” on 29 March

The short films of the six directors shortlisted at the UNESCO-Netflix “African Folk Tales Reimagined” competition will be available on the video-on-demand platform in 190 countries from 29 March. This initiative is part of UNESCO’s action plan to support the young generation of African filmmakers and promote the continent’s cultural diversity.

UNESCO has made Africa its priority. With regard to culture, this includes significant support for creative film industry. In 2021, the Organization published the first report dedicated to the trends, challenges and growth opportunities of the sector, which is likely to create 20 million jobs and generate 20 billion dollars in annual revenue on the continent.

UNESCO is also committed to supporting and promoting the new generation of filmmakers. In this spirit, in 2021, the Organization launched with Netflix a competition for the production of short films on the theme of “African Folk Tales Reimagined,” open to creators from the continent.

Six finalists from over 2,000 entries

The initiative was a great success, with over 2,000 entries received. After a first selection, 21 candidates presented their projects before an international jury. The jury then selected six finalists from Kenya, Mauritania, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.

Each finalist won $25,000 and a production grant of $75,000 to create their short film with a local production company. The six short films were completed in early 2023 and will be streamed on the video-on-demand platform in 190 countries on 29 March on the occasion of the 6th Kalasha International Film and TV Market in Kenya.

Synopsis of the short films

Zabin Halima (Halima’s Choice) by Korede Azeez (Nigeria). Mentor: Jenna Bass

With 99% of the world population uploaded into virtual worlds, a young girl from a secluded Fulani village inadvertently elopes with an artificial intelligence to escape an arranged marriage. Genre: Sci-fi, Fantasy; Language: Hausa; Director: Korede Azeez; Producer: Kenneth Gyang; Cast: Habiba Ummi Mohammed; Adam Garba, Produced by Cinema Kpatakpata.

Anyango and the Ogre by Voline Ogutu – Kenya

With the backdrop of a childhood folktale, 13-year-old Otis struggles to protect his younger siblings from a monster that lives inside their home. Genre: Fantasy, Drama; Language: KiSwah li and English; Director: Voline Ogutu; Producer: Sarah Hassan; Cast: Trevor Jones Kamau; Sarah Hassan, Produced by Alfajiri Productions.

Katera of the Punishment Island – by Loukman Ali – Uganda

Abandoned on an island, a woman grieving the loss of her baby exacts revenge on the powerful man who put her there. Genre: Thriller; Language: Runyankole and English; Director & Producer: Loukman Ali; Cast: Karababiito Tracy; Michael Wawuyo JR; Production company: Loukout Films.

Katope by Walt Mzengi Corey – Tanzania

A young child with magical origins sets out on a journey to help end the drought that is devastating the community – even if it means risking their own life. Genre: Fantasy, Drama; Language: KiSwahili and ciGogo; Director: Walt Mzengi

Enmity Djinn by Mohamed Echkouna – Mauritania

Three generations after he was last summoned, an ancient Enmity Djinn finds himself in an unfamiliar city confronted by a familiar foe. Genre: Fantasy/Drama; Language: Hassaniya Arabic and French; Director & Producer: Mohamed Echkouna; Cast: Zainabou Ahmed Mohamed; Mamadou Mokhtar N’diaye Gueye.

MaMlambo by Gcobisa Yako – South Africa). Mentor : Bongiwe Selane

The mystical river being, MaMlambo, watches over the sacred waters of discarded bodies. Genre: Drama; Language: isiXhosa; Director: Gcobisa Yako; Producer: Pakiso Albertus; Cast: Simphiwe Dana; Zikhona Bali

UNESCO is proud to present these folk tales reimagined by young talents from the African continent. Steeped in tradition and heritage, but also in innovation and creativity, the cultural expressions of 21stcentury Africa are as diverse and dynamic as its people. This partnership between UNESCO and Netflix illustrates our shared commitment to the continent’s audiovisual industries, which generate jobs and wealth. The creative industries are an asset for the sustainable development of the continent, and we are eager have global audiences experience this inexhaustible energy.
Ernesto Ottone R.UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture
We are excited to finally bring this anthology of short films created by the next generation of African storytellers to Netflix members around the world. This initiative is a testament to our ongoing efforts to strengthen the pipeline of African storytelling and to include voices from underrepresented communities. We’re grateful to our partners at UNESCO who walked this journey with us to provide an opportunity for the six emerging African filmmakers to create and showcase their reimagined folktales to the world, in their own languages, so that more people can see their lives reflected on screen.
Tendeka MatatuNetflix’s Director of Film in Africa.