Mama Africa

The impulses that produced this project, which brings together three short, English-language films by African female filmmakers into a feature-film package introduced by rap icon Queen Latifah, are commendable, but the results are uneven. In the Namibian "Uno's World," the restless, unworldly Uno (Sophie David) develops a crush on Kaura (Muhindua Kaura)...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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The impulses that produced this project, which brings together three short, English-language films by African female filmmakers into a feature-film package introduced by rap icon Queen Latifah, are commendable, but the results are uneven. In the Namibian "Uno's World," the restless, unworldly Uno (Sophie David) develops a crush on Kaura (Muhindua Kaura) and becomes pregnant. She has their child, even though it's clear that Kaura has no interest in fatherhood. Uno's foolish attempts to involve him in his baby's life draws her into Kaura's circle of criminal associates. In "Hang Time," from Nigeria, high school senior Kwame (Brian Biragi) hopes that a basketball scholarship to an American college could be the key to lifting his family out of poverty. He's mindful, though, that his father's dreams of boxing success came to nothing; now his father works on an oil rig, contributes little to his children's support and relies on his aging mother (Elizabeth Mathebuka) to hold the family together. Kwame desperately needs a new pair of sneakers before the all-important tryouts, and that makes him vulnerable to local crime lord Olu's (Brian Bovell) offers of work. Finally, in the South African "Raya," rebellious Raya (Rehane Abrahams) finishes a five-year sentence for drug dealing and returns home to her strict Muslim mother (Denise Newman), who's been raising Raya's daughter Madeegah (Ayesha Meer Krige), now eight. Although Raya rejects the strict traditions her mother and late father embraced, she wants to get a legitimate job and be a good mother. But she can't find work, and finds herself drifting back to old associates like Joe (Oscar Petersen), a genial drug dealer. "Uno's World" is the film's least accomplished entry; writer-director Bridget Pickering fails to establish her characters or their social context clearly, and Uno's behavior is more appropriate to a young teenager than the 25-year-old she's apparently meant to be. "Hang Time" is stronger, although the parallels that writer-director Ngozi Onwhura establishes between the seductive Olu and Satan (which range from a demonic scarlet mask on his wall to a long conversation about the legend of bluesman Robert Johnson) are less than subtle, especially since they're crammed into such a brief running time. "Raya" is by far the strongest film, tightly written and exceptionally well-acted; writer-director Zulfah Otto-Sallies even elicits a strong, unaffected performance from child actress Ayesha Meer Krige. Queen Latifa's interstitial introductions are simplistic, but showcase her personal charisma and dedication to the empowerment of female artists.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The impulses that produced this project, which brings together three short, English-language films by African female filmmakers into a feature-film package introduced by rap icon Queen Latifah, are commendable, but the results are uneven. In the Namibian "… (more)

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