Years back there has been increased attention on sexism and racism and stereotypes in Hollywood films, which can be reflected in who acts in front of the camera, who directs behind it and how people are represented on-screen — and often all three. Hollywood history provides many examples of racist caricatures. Black and Asian people have been repeated targets. Producers of two African-made films premiering on Netflix this month believe their work will show there’s a subscriber appetite for movies that go deeper than the Hollywood stereotypes that often make African viewers groan. Subscribers to the world`s largest streaming service can now watch ‘Poacher’, a Kenyan drama about elephant poaching and ‘Òlòturé’, a Nigerian thriller about a journalist whose world falls apart after she goes undercover as a sex worker. The films avoid the simplistic portrayals that viewers in Africa often resent, the producers say.
Netflix has begun screening more content produced in Africa, and in June released romantic comedy ‘Cook Off’, Zimbabwe`s first offering on the streaming service. Poacher, the first Kenyan film released on Netflix, uses drama to show the lives of everyday people involved in poaching. “It`s very simple to point fingers,” said Davina Leonard, who co-wrote, co-produced, and stars in Poacher. “When you start a drama, now you`re looking at the people and their motivations.” The film’s other star, Brian Ogola, hopes Poacher will spur people to action. “It`s still not enough if we want our grandchildren to see some of these animals in their natural habitat.” The film ends with a statistic from the World Wildlife Foundation: if current trends continue, elephants will be extinct by 2040.
The other movie, Òlòturé, joins a host of Nigerian films on the platform, which has nearly 193 million subscribers globally. Òlòturé was shot on the gritty streets and in rundown homes of Lagos. It tells the story of impoverished sex workers lured into being trafficked overseas. Human Rights Watch ranks Nigeria a top origin country of trafficking victims in Europe and elsewhere. In one scene, a businessman drugs and rapes the undercover journalist at a party. In another, sex workers endure a voodoo initiation to scare them into loyalty to pimps trafficking them to Italy.”I am very happy that this conversation has started so that the government will sit up to their responsibility, so that the agencies that are tasked with fighting human trafficking in Nigeria will maybe clamour for more funding or sit up and do better,” said co-producer James Amuta.