Dignifying Africa through film


Motherland is described as a very powerful documentary about Africa as it fuses history, culture, politics and contemporary issues, while telling a new story of a dynamic continent.

“From the glory and majesty of Africa’s past through its complex and recent history, Motherland looks unflinchingly towards a positive Pan-African future. Its story is carried through breathtaking cinematography, a fluid soundtrack and a beautiful illustration of global African diversity and unity.

“If you ask someone to close their eyes and you say “Africa’, the images that will swamp their mind are of Aids, famine and war. Poverty, death and destruction are images reinforced to perpetuate the cycle of defeat in the global African mind, all via the conduit of mass media. Motherland deals with the African narrative in dignified terms. This reversal requires a re-imaging of the continent to restore African agency and rebuild the self-esteem of a people who have been victims of an ongoing holocaust that is physical, economic, spiritual and cultural,’ says Shahadah.

Produced by MK Asante Jr the film features South African President Jacob Zuma, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, African American historian Dr Molefi Asante and political scholar Dr Ali Mazrui among other prominent Africans in Africa and abroad.

Shahadah explains: “From the onset of modern history, Africa has played the devil in every tale: the savage, the cannibal, the heathen, the immoral and the mindless sub-human. So the reason for entering into this seven-year project was to make a film to end all lies about Africa, by contributing an authoritative singular body of work crafted and owned by African people. At the same time the film satisfies the ultimate academic threshold but without diminishing its entertainment value.’

Unified voice

The aim of the film is to create clear holistic debates that are solution driven and that merge to create a Pan-African cinematic experience, which testifies to the potential of what can be achieved when Africa speaks with a unified voice in the vein of self-determination. The central agent in this documentary is the African voice.

Motherland was shot all over the world including Africa. Shahadah says that the primary market for Motherland right now is in the US and that is so for economic reasons. He reckons that African Americans as a group are one of the largest economies today and along with their buying power there is an awareness and appreciation of black consciousness documentaries. “Our multi-award winning film 500 Years Later was part of the same project and its audience is our primary market.’

He adds that distribution in Africa is still a major challenge due to the lack of infrastructure and government will to protect and nurture media growth. “Copyright is a major problem along with the colonial mentality which still occupies places like Kenya and South Africa. It also seems that the truth is not politically correct. We plan to put pressure on public service broadcasters like the SABC to acquire this documentary for national broadcast.’

Unique insight

As a student in African affairs Shahadah had a unique insight into what to include in this narrative. “Motherland crosses the gap between what intellectuals all discuss and what the people feel. Bridging this gap required two disciplines – firstly the scholarly study of Africa and secondly the African aesthetic of storytelling.’

Motherland has won two awards – Best Documentary at the Zanzibar Film Festival 2010 and Best Board of Directors Award for Documentary at the Pan-African Film Festival 2010. “We are not pushing the film festival circuit. Direct marketing is where most of our energy is being spent. Film festivals with few exceptions are deeply prejudicial when it comes to African content,’ says Shahadah.

Halaqah Films is a 13-year-old multinational company with outposts in the UK, US and South Africa with agents in Ethiopia and Nigeria. It has produced four mainstream films – Our Story Our Voice, The Idea, Motherland and 500 Years Later, and numerous other media products including visual media for various clients.


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