On March 29th, a new series of short films called “African Folk Tales Reimagined” was launched on Netflix. With the media company joining forces with UNESCO in an effort to “support the young generation of African filmmakers and promote the continent’s cultural diversity”, it allowed six up-and-coming African filmmakers to showcase their vision through short films that reimagine African folktales. As the films draw from a wide range of African cultures and traditions, they were also produced in different regional African languages such as Hausa, Xhosa, and Swahili. Not only were they made to entertain but also to educate and inspire, having a lasting impact on the world of storytelling and cultural preservation.
This partnership between UNESCO and Netflix ushers in a future in the film and entertainment industries where African cultures are brought to the forefront and modern interpretations are blended into traditional African storytelling. As Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, states, “The film sector must ensure that the creativity of Africa is promoted by supporting young talents and making sure that African filmmakers contribute to the international film industry.”
With the future in discussion, it is also important to discuss rapid globalization and the development sector, especially with the rise of AI and the more prominent use of technology. Directed by the Nigerian filmmaker Korede Azeez, “Zabin Halima,” which translates to “Halima’s Choice”, wonderfully showcases a thought-provoking and visually stunning portrayal of a futuristic world where both tradition and technology intersect.
Azeez explores the themes by reimagining the Nigerian folktale ” The Disobedient Daughter Who Married a Skull” which narrates a story about a young girl whose parents wanted her to marry a rich but ugly, and old man. Disobeying her parents, the young girl ended up marrying a skull from the spirit land who deceived her as a young, handsome man. With contemporary elements, Azeeza incorporates technology as she sets her short film in a remote Fulani village away from Napata, a virtual world where most of the population has uploaded themselves. Halima (played by Habiba Mohammed), the protagonist, navigates a difficult decision between escaping into the virtual world or following traditions into an arranged marriage.
As Halima runs into Umar (played by Adamu Garba), the story takes a turn as he secretly helps her explore the virtual world. The concepts of escape and reality are intertwined, as reality is aligned with dystopian suffering, where the virtual world provides an escape to a world of perfect conditions—a utopia, a “no place,” where consciousness is uploaded into the AI servers. It leaves the audience with the question of what is real, what does reality look like, and who decides what reality is?
While also exploring the social issue of arranged marriages in Nigerian culture, Azeez managed to discuss the struggle of sticking to traditions or choosing to break social structures. Presently, that struggle exists in a society where there is much discussion regarding the acceptance of technology and where many people virtually create worlds for themselves through social media as a form of escape.
Halima’s Choice is not only a thought-provoking film as it blends culture and technology in a manner that provides space for social discussions through its reimagination of an African folktale, but it also showcases the significance of storytelling and the importance of upholding cultural customs. The futuristic context and themes further reinforce its relevance to contemporary society, as they illustrate the difficulty of maintaining a balance between progress and tradition.
Now available to stream on Netflix.