The daunting task of selecting the right film to watch or the best series to download has become a whole lot simpler, with the help of various rating sites that make it easier to separate the good from the mediocre.
Rotten Tomatoes, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are just some of the countless film-focused websites that cater to Hollywood productions and the industry as a whole. The African film industry on the other hand, lacks a dedicated, trustworthy platform to give voice to its many stories and storytellers.
“Afri Reviews is the brainchild of James Ogunjimi and myself,” says Afri Reviews co-founder Anita Abada. “The idea for this project was born out of an overwhelming desire to project the African movie industry to the world by standing as a focal point for reviews of African movies and to promote diversity in plot, cinematography and casting by serving as a medium of check and balance to the quality of movies produced in Africa.”
Abada is a Nigerian-based writer, content developer, film critic and co-founder of dedicated African film review website – Afri Reviews – which recently launched and promises to be a one-stop shop for all African movies, short films, animations, documentaries and series.
“We want someone from Uganda to know the movies released in Morocco. We want someone from South Africa to know what’s going on in Sierra Leone. But most importantly, we want to be a one-stop shop for African movies not just for Africans, but for foreigners as well who want to partake in the beauty of African films,” says Abada.
Abada’s passion for African films and in seeing this industry prosper is quite profound and eye-opening. In the research stage of her journey she found that while there are many sites that claim to provide honest reviews of African movies, these sites were actually dishonest in their ratings.
“Basically, we found that reviews of movies by most ‘reviewers’ were written as favours to the filmmakers due to the unbelievable way that below par movies were praised to high heavens. It was either that or we have very incapable reviewers with unbelievably low expectations. We knew we had to do something.”
Abada and her co-founder have since made a call to African film writers and critics to join their cause in providing unbiased reviews and giving credit where it’s due. “We want reviews that not only reflect the true state of a movie, but reviews that force industry players and stakeholders to sit up, invest in good writing, and begin to churn out movies that don’t denigrate women as well as movies that reflect the growing status of the African movie industry.”
So far, the website has received overwhelming feedback from the industry however the call for reviewers has not been as encouraging, shares Abada. “We are getting very little feedback but we are working with those who have joined and will bring others on board as soon as they get in touch.”
Afri Reviews has also been spreading the news of its launch through collaboration with the African Press Organisation. The platform has several other partnerships in the pipeline which Abada says they hope will bring more momentum to the project.
“Getting writers and capable reviewers in each country is not easy. Getting people to start coming to the platform is not easy either. And we expect even bigger challenges. Filmmakers who are used to making mediocre movies and getting hailed will not like this at first, but if they are committed to the growth of the industry, the bad press this will give them will only spur them to improve the quality of movies they make,” she says.
Abada also hopes to see the site improve the plight of African actors and affirm their talents and film contributions to the continent.
“We want to, by these critiques, improve the quality of acting and achieve a process where our actors don’t rely on external validations to feel like they have arrived…We are not content with one or two Africans breaking out and becoming stars outside of the continent, we want to make it cool to be stars inside the continent and respected outside the continent based on the internal reputation,” says Abada.
A good example is South African actress Pearl Thusi’s journey from her local fame on the small screen to now being an international movie star, says Abada as she details how Thusi kick-started her acting career in the local soapie, Isidingo and then landed her first international gig on Quantico. Thusi is currently working on her latest international role in the Scorpion King movie. Lupita Nyong’o is also another African star from Kenya, noted Abada, who has grown in the film industry and played award-winning roles (12 Years a Slave, Queen of Katwe and Eclipsed) in the international scene.
“But we want more,” stresses Abada. “We want to so improve the quality of movies that come out of the continent and the quality of reviews they get that outsiders can see for themselves how good they are.”
Abada stresses that local audiences need to invest in and support their own local films and actors. While researching for the site, she found that most Africans choose to support Western movies and actors instead of their own local content, and argued that the quality of international movies – acting, writing and dialogue – is at a far better standard then here in Africa.
“Africa has really matured in these aspects too. We no longer focus on black magic and religion. Yes, there are still some who focus on that, but we have movies that take entirely different turns now and actors that put everything into their movies,” she concludes.