African-themed movies are making headway on the big screen and streaming apps. Many of these movies are produced directly on the continent. However, some are created and published in the Western world. I have become a connoisseur of such content in recent years. And at this point, the only thing I love more than African-themed movies and films are the ones that specifically feature African spirituality.
And every so often, I can catch a gem or two on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc., highlighting such content. While this aspect of the African world is still a bit touch and go in the film industry, some producers are making headway as they feature aspects of African spirituality in films. And I am definitely grateful for their efforts. As such, I decided to catalog some of the productions that spotlight African spirituality in the entertainment world.
While all of the films on this list are not exclusively about African spirituality, they explore traditional beliefs, rituals, and values at some level. Likewise, they aren’t all set on the continent – some profile traditional belief systems practiced throughout the African diaspora. Overall, the films on this list serve to teach viewers about African traditional beliefs in straightforward, humorous, and anecdotal ways. So, if you enjoy this type of content, grab your popcorn and get ready to be entertained.
This movie features a journeyer, Saro, who finds himself in a bind after a romantic fling with the wife of a prominent king. This results in his downfall, which leads to his death. But he runs into a mystical bird that grants him a second chance at life. And through a turn of events, he uses magical powers obtained from the bird to make a better way of life for himself with dire consequences.
Aníkúlápó prominently features African spirituality themes and concepts. And it highlights traditional life in the Oyo empire of Nigeria. It showcases both beneficial and detrimental aspects of engaging with the astral world. It fairly and accurately depicts cultural beliefs surrounding traditional life in Africa in the 17th century prior to modern-day views of such practices. And this is refreshing as it gives us a glimpse of how African people naturally engaged with their world before colonization.
Bigger Than Africa
Bigger Than Africa is an inspirational documentary that dives deep into the powerful story of how the resilient Yoruba culture survived and thrived beyond slavery, despite unimaginable odds. It details how this ancient culture remained alive in the New World from its origins in West Africa to its current presence in places like Brazil, Cuba, and the Caribbean. And it highlights how the Yoruba culture is undoubtedly present in its dispersed children worldwide.
This is one of the most inspirational documentaries about African spirituality and cultural roots I have witnessed in recent times. It is truly a gem that warms the heart and encourages the soul. Anyone in the diaspora considering this pathway should definitely watch this film. This is a fascinating story of immense resilience and determination. And it leaves viewers inspired by the remarkable legacy of the Yoruba culture.
Dolls of Voodoo (Haitian Nights)
Revenge is a powerful emotion, and it can lead to dark and dangerous actions. In Dolls of Voodoo (Haitian Nights), a Voodoo Priest exacts revenge on a successful newlywed couple for his scorned daughter, using Voodoo rituals and spells to bring them misfortune. Will the couple be able to protect themselves from the Priest’s wrath, or will they succumb to his vengeance? Follow their story as they battle against the odds in an attempt to survive the effects of the powerful Voodoo Priest.
This is a solid B-list movie showcasing the dark side of Vodou. Even so, it demonstrates just how powerful this system can be. Though I am not a fan of perpetuating negative stereotypes and narratives about our practices, I know it is necessary to profile every aspect. And scenarios such as these exist in real life, so it serves as a powerful lesson to those considering delving into Vodou or any other form of African spirituality.
Foreigner’s God is set in colonial-era Nigeria. The movie depicts an English documentary photographer embarking on a journey to uncover a story about an icon. Instead, he brings to light the plight of those living under subhuman conditions. During his search, he meets an accused witch who captures his heart and changes his life forever. Through this relationship, he is able to gain a deeper insight into the harsh realities of colonial Nigeria, as well as its complex cultural dynamics.
Though this movie profiled elements of African spirituality, it depicted the life of individuals accused of practicing it during Nigerian colonization. It sheds light on the plight of “witches,” who were ultimately women with spiritual power. While the underlying culture was still African at its core, it was about the harsh reality of people who had been separated from their right to religious autonomy.
I am Not a Witch
I Am Not A Witch is an emotional film that takes you deep into a remote Zambian community. In this film, a young girl’s life takes a harrowing turn when she is denounced as a witch. Stripped of her basic rights and dignity, she is sent on a trajectory of exploitation, becoming tethered to the witches’ camp. And thereafter, she was hired out as an attraction for tourists. This cruel practice not only brings her deep suffering but also threatens the safety and security of other vulnerable community members.
This movie was about people’s attitudes toward witchcraft, which is often synonymous with African spirituality or voodoo in African communities. Many have taken on this ideology after European colonization to the detriment of innocent people across the continent. Anyone with spiritual power, intuitive abilities, or seemingly supernatural capabilities is often branded as a heretic. And this movie cuts to the core of the treatment of such individuals. It’s a must-watch for anyone who wishes to explore the inner workings of such cultural enigmas.
In Our Mother’s Garden
In this powerful documentary, Black women explore the stories of their mothers and redefine holistic lives rooted in self-care and healing. Through their personal stories and experiences, these women unlock a wealth of knowledge that can help reshape society’s understanding of what it means to be a Black woman. By centering the voices and insights of those closest to us, this documentary provides an inspiring look at how we can treat ourselves with respect and care while striving for personal growth.
While the storyline of this documentary was more about the narratives and experiences of Black women, it did weave in elements of African spirituality. A few of the women in the film discussed their journeys back into the traditions of their ancestors. They talked about how it has served as a mechanism of healing and strength in trying and turbulent times. This film is a must-watch for any woman of color struggling to find herself and understand her identity in today’s world.
In Search of Voodoo: Roots to Heaven
In Search of Voodoo: Roots to Heaven takes us on a journey to West Africa, providing an intimate and enlightening look at the vibrant culture of voodoo. Following actor Djimon Hounsou back to Benin, the country of his birth, the film captures the essence of West African voodoo culture. It also explores spiritual connections between people, their beliefs, and their relationship with nature. Through beautiful cinematography and riveting storytelling, it paints an engaging portrait of a belief system often misunderstood or misrepresented.
This film captivates viewers with its exploration into the depths of African spirituality and voodoo. And it is wholeheartedly dedicated to African spirituality. Because it is a documentary, its goal is to educate and inform. Therefore, interested individuals can learn a wealth of information about voodoo in West Africa and beyond.
Juju Stories is a captivating three-part anthology film that dives deep into the magical world of Nigerian folklore and urban legend. Through this anthology, viewers are taken on a journey through time and space to explore the mysteries of juju stories as told by various characters. The three parts of this anthology feature unique perspectives on traditional Nigerian beliefs and practices, providing viewers with an educational yet entertaining experience.
This was an intriguing anthology to behold. It capitalized on the urban legends many of us grew up hearing about magic and conjure. Yet, its focus wasn’t as jugular as some narratives that set out to demonize our practices. Instead, it incorporated the use of magic or juju in slow-paced, everyday life as felt by the average person who encounters such scenarios. Obviously, the stories were about juju or black magic, but they were not presented to judge such practices. Instead, they showcased their use in daily life.
King of Thieves
The King of Thieves, is an epic tale of a powerful bandit who terrorized the prosperous Kingdom of Ajeromi. As he rampaged through the kingdom, Agesinkole amassed a fortune, and his legend grew. His cunning and mastery of thieving techniques earned him the nickname ‘King of Thieves.’ A brave and daring saga of revenge, bravery, and glory is about to unfold as the kingdom moves to take down the pillager.
This thrilling adventure brings forth hunters, witches, and priests as they join forces in an attempt to rid the kingdom of its foe. Along the way, they will face danger and test their courage, fighting for justice and glory. This movie is all about the spectacular power of African spirituality. It highlights many aspects of the Ifa religion and is a must-watch for anyone interested in learning more about this tradition.
Priestess of Osun – My Nigerian Initiation
Priestess of Osun – My Nigerian Initiation narrates the story of one woman’s initiation into the Osun priesthood of the Yoruba tradition. The Osun festival in Osogbo, Nigeria, is a pilgrimage that has captivated thousands of people from all over the world. Among them is one African American woman’s journey to find her indigenous culture and spiritual identity. Through this unique experience, she discovers the wonders of culture and spirituality in an unfamiliar land. And she learns how her indigenous culture is intertwined with her own personal history.
This is a good watch for anyone wondering what initiation looks like in the Ifa tradition. The cinematography isn’t of the highest quality, but the home-video style of the documentary gives it an authentic feel. Beyond that, viewers get an insider look into some of the inner workings of the initiation process. Even more, the narrator captured her experience from multiple viewpoints – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ordinary. Such an experience can be quite beneficial for those considering this path.
Season one of Taboo features many episodes with elements of African spirituality. From the ancient to the modern, rituals and traditions have been a part of almost every culture in the world. In some cases, these customs and practices can be so unusual and shocking that you can’t help but be fascinated by them. This series explores some of the most stunning stories about rituals and traditions from around the world that are sure to leave you in awe.
This is a documentary-style series that features specific traditions such as voodoo, spiritual healers, and witchcraft. Yet, it also examines other cultural taboos related to evil spirits, rights of passage, death, etc. Though it’s entitled Taboo, keep in mind that the elements featured in this series are considered such by the filmmakers. Contrarily, they are very much part of everyday life for the individuals who interact with these practices on a daily basis.
The Zulu Empire, led by King Shaka, was a powerful force in the 19th century. King Shaka, an ambitious and talented military strategist, had grand plans for his kingdom and sought to expand its reach. As such, he began encroaching on the British Cape Town colony. This set off a series of battles between the two forces that would have far-reaching consequences. Of course, this is a classic film set during 1823 South African colonial rule. It depicts the true story of an African tribal king during this brutal period.
While the plot showcases this mighty warrior’s strategic underpinnings and subsequent fall, it also features aspects of African spirituality. In particular, it highlights Shaka’s connection to a spiritualist who helped him acquire his power. Likewise, this individual was a prominent character in his life throughout his reign. This is a must-watch for anyone seriously invested in understanding the role of African spirituality in African culture.
Soólè is an intriguing thriller that follows a group of strangers on a bus journey home for Christmas. Along the way, they find themselves entangled in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with criminals who will stop at nothing to get what they want. This thrilling movie will keep viewers on the edge of their seats as they watch the events unfold and figure out how everything will end.
Though the movie was more about suspense, it captured fascinating elements of African spirituality and the state of religion in Nigeria as a whole. It featured how individuals from diverse religious backgrounds and belief systems deal with unexpected challenges. It strongly emphasized the innate power of African spirituality and the colonized belief systems that keep African people from their traditions. Though the film is not the best from a cinematic perspective, the dialogue about religion and spirituality alone is worth the watch.
In the movie Sugar Rush, three sisters find themselves in a world of trouble after stumbling across a fortune. In their haste to enjoy their newfound wealth, they garner the attention of some dangerous criminals. With their lives on the line, they must come up with a plan to keep the money for themselves. At the same time, they must elude adamant cops bent on taking down a criminal mob.
This movie was a hard, fast thriller with notable comedic movements. The overall theme wasn’t about African spirituality. However, certain aspects of magic were featured near the end of it. Though much of the activity showed the darker side of mystical powers as they were being used for corrupt purposes. But either way, it gave viewers a glimpse into this world. And the movie was fun and fast-paced, which is sure to appeal to adventure seekers.
The Figurine (Araromire)
In The Figurine (Araromire), two friends embark on an unforgettable journey when they stumble upon a sacred and mystical sculpture in the forest. The sculpture acts as the catalyst for a series of unnerving events that will test the strength of their friendship. As one decides to take the sculpture back to his hometown, they must fight against mysterious forces and navigate through unexpected obstacles. This gripping tale takes us on a thrilling adventure that leaves us breathless as we discover what lies beyond the abandoned shrine in the forest.
This film is all about magic and mysticism. It captures the essence of traditional African culture and belief systems. Also, the movie showcases how African spiritual technology can be used for good and evil. This film takes viewers deep into the world of traditional belief practices in Nigeria in historical and modern times.
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