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Netflix reimagines African folktales

A continent-wide call for submissions has culminated in six short films by emerging fimmakers, produced in partnership with UNESCO.

Tales as old as time from across the African continent have been reimagined and retold by a new generation of six storytellers. The tales have come together as African Folktales, Reimaged, a series of six short films in partnership with UNESCO.

Due to launch on Netflix on 29 March 2023, the anthology has been launched as part of Netflix’s partnership with UNESCO to support the next generation of storytellers. The creators of the films were provided with extensive resources, including a $90,000 budget and creative guidance by established filmmakers as mentors.

The emerging filmmakers were selected in 2021 following a call for submission that resulted in over 2,000 applications from across the continent. The 6 emerging storytellers from Nigeria, South Africa, Mauritania, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will see their respective short films, make their debut globally on Netflix next week.

The African Folktales, Reimaged short film collection features a variety of African on-screen talent in stories by emerging African storytellers, such as Mohamed Echkouna from Mauritania with Enmity Djinn; Walt Mzengi Corey from Tanzania with Katope; Korede Azeez from Nigeria with Zabin Halima; Voline Ogutu from Kenya with Anyango and the Ogre; Loukman Ali from Uganda with Katera of the Punishment Island; and Gcobisa Yako from South Africa with MaMlambo.

Netflix provided the following information on synopses, key casts and crew

Zabin Halima (Halima’s Choice) – by Korede Azeez – Nigeria

With 99% of the world population uploaded into virtual worlds, a young girl from a secluded Fulani village inadvertently elopes with an AI 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: KiSwahili 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 Corey; producer: Petrus Van Staden; Rebecca Mzengi Corey cast: Jene Mahenyela Mwalimu; Rahele Matete; production company:  Solela Art and Film

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

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

Each storyteller was partnered with a local production company and under the guidance of Netflix-appointed supervising producer, Steven Markovich from Big World Cinema and industry mentors: Bongiwe Selane (mentor to Gcobisa Yako); Jenna Bass (mentorto Korede Azeez); Pape Boye (mentor to Loukman Ali); Femi Odugbemi (mentor to Mohamed Echkouna); Leila Afua Djansi (mentor to Voline Ogutu) and Tosh Gitonga (mentor to Walter Mzengi) who provided guidance and nurtured the filmmakers on their journey to bring their stories to life.

Tendeka Matatu, Netflix director of film in Africa, says: “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.”

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