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Is it problematic for South African movies on Netflix to be labelled African?

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Netflix has underpinned South African productions, along with those produced in Africa, under one sub-genre of African movies and television series, which arguably perpetuates a stereotype.

Should an individual log on to their Netflix account in search of South African movies to watch, the individual in question would have to search under the African category. Thereafter, they would need to sift through the content to look for familiar talent to indicate that the movie is South African.

The all-encompassing categorisation can be deemed problematic and confusing for several reasons, which have been stipulated below. Firstly, the recurring critique of international businesses which look to branch into the African market is the misconception that Africa is monolithic. Often, referring to the continent as a whole, instead of specific countries, perpetuates the misconception that Africa is one big country and that all who live in it know each other. Moreover, it disregards the various nuances that each country has.

Building on the aforementioned notion, different African countries have different filmic languages and tropes. One of the biggest film industries in Africa is Nollywood. The popularity of the industry stems from Nollywood having developed easily recognisable signifiers that distinguish a Nollywood movie from a Hollywood movie, or even a South African movie. For instance, Nollywood films are known for their supernatural and mystical motifs, which are seen in most popular films. Moreover, Nollywood films are shot in a manner that makes the viewer aware of the camera until one acclimatizes to the storytelling device.

On the other hand, the South African approach to movies has a heavy focus on action. Moreover, as much as the movies produced in South Africa aim to hide the presence of the camera, as a way to enhance the suspension of disbelief, another distinguishing aspect is that sometimes, the trajectory of the story does not make sense. However, that can be overlooked because of the action-led approach.

Ultimately, by grouping these movies into one African category, it strips all the nuance away. Moreover, it does not open room for one to attempt to have deeper and more intellectual discussions on the differences in storytelling between African countries.

Sabelo Makhubo
s[email protected]

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