Hollywood as the biggest media platform in the world, and the most far-reaching, has for decades set the narrative for how we see people different from us. How we perceive those from countries we have not visited has mostly been shaped by what we have seen about them in TV shows and films from Hollywood. How we see Germans, Koreans, Mexicans, Columbians from the one-note and stereotypes portrayals in Hollywood films is from writers, actors and filmmakers who don’t truly know these people. Part of what diversity is about is hearing people tell their own story of their own identity, lives and experiences.
Hollywood’s narrative about Africa has been one of an adventurous getaway, holiday, famine and child soldiers, and mysticism. This is the image a majority of the world has about Africa and Africans. To many, Africans live in the wild as warriors or starving in the desert. Think of any “end of the world” montage in a disaster/Alien attack blockbuster, what image do they show of Africa?
Students of African background in the US and Europe get the most peculiar questions based on how these films have shaped in the minds of their Western classmates about the lives of every person living in Africa; a safari or something you’d see in a Tarzan movie.
Thankfully, filmmakers from Africa (home & diaspora) are telling their stories, shaping their own narrative; pain, sorrow, tragedy, victory, and joy. While they won’t get the level of attention of Hollywood’s singular narrative, they are present for those who actually want to see Africa by Africans.
Watch the video essay, ‘Africa’s Narrative: Hollywood vs Africa’ below:
Olu Yomi is a film culturist, screenwriter & director with a Masters in Creative & Cultural Industries. He has written for television; drama, sitcoms, web series & telenovelas. Short films which he has directed or written have screened at the BFI, Cannes, AFRIFF and other film festivals. He’s on social media as @oludascribe