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The Rise of African Films on Netflix 

© by Netflix

A few years ago, unless you’re a film auteur, it’s unlikely that you’ve seen an African film. 

Because of the increasing popularity of Netflix and other streaming services that followed it, people are becoming familiar with movies from other countries. The consumption of foreign language films in the United States went up by 50% in 2020 alone. Content from Europe was the most popular choice, but African films are also making headway. It also creates a demand for foreign movies and series and makes fluency in foreign languages a valuable skill.

The Role of Translation Services for Foreign Content on Netflix

Translation services have played a significant role in the popularity of foreign content in Netflix and other streaming services. The key is not just to translate the dialogue but also to localize it. Netflix has an in-house system for translating content and they value fluency in foreign languages. Still, other streaming services and content creators must rely on professional translation services providers to deliver their messages to other countries. 

Picking the company that will do the translation is not easy. The best practice is to choose the leading companies in the industry because they have the experience, the setup, and the fluency in foreign languages to handle video content.

The ease of getting a film project to be translated accepted is another factor that should be considered when looking for translation services. Ofer Tirosh, CEO of Tomedes, says, “We made sure that the process of uploading files to be translated is as smooth as possible. They can get an instant quote for their content right away. We know the speed of translation is crucial for all our clients, but especially for those who need subtitles and closed captions.” 

Sabine Jolly, Global Director Rich Media Delivery at RWS Group, says, “We cover a wide spectrum of audio and video production services: transcription, subtitling and closed captioning, casting in-country voice artists, voiceover and dubbing, audio and video post-production, as well as accessibility solutions for media content.” That’s why RWS has become an established name in the translation industry. 

Popular African Films on Netflix

Netflix has equalized the playing field when it comes to international films. African films that would not have been noticed in the past are now gaining attention. We have listed here some of the top African movies on Netflix.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

One of the most inspiring stories on any streaming service, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, tells the story of William Kamkwamba. William was a young teenager when a terrible drought hit his village. He was able to access the school library, and with what he learned, he built a wind-powered dynamo that helped his village get the water they needed.

The film is based on a book that William himself co-wrote. Set in Malawi, this is a truly inspiring film that is arguably one of the most uplifting stories to come out, not just out of Africa but the rest of the world.

Filmmaker Chiwetel Ejiofor had to learn Chichewa to lend authenticity to the film. He spent a lot of time working with Chichewa speakers and translator services to gain an understanding of the language.


Do you love nature documentaries about wildlife and how they are being protected? But Virunga is more than that. The documentary starts out by showing how the rangers of The Congolese National Park of Virunga, the oldest national park in Africa, protect the natural habitat of gorillas.

The film soon changes to a more serious theme. It showed how the park rangers were fighting against the mining companies that are working to exploit the national park. The struggle is serious as several rangers have been killed because of the conflict. Because the film is a European production, it is mainly available in English and in French.

Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation is Netflix’s first original movie, and while it’s not entirely an African production, it does tell a powerful story that is very familiar throughout Africa. The film was shot in Ghana but it portrays an unnamed African country. Unfortunately, what was portrayed can apply to numerous African countries that have suffered from civil war and strife.

The film is about a young villager who was forced to become a child soldier. The film uses three languages, English, Twi, and Krio, a Pidgin English used in Nigeria. That makes the task of professional translation services working on the film for American audiences relatively easy.

Cook Off

Cook Off is the first movie from Zimbabwe that was streamed on Netflix. Made with a minimal budget, the romantic comedy is centered around a heroine joining a reality cooking show.

English is widely spoken in Zimbabwe, so shooting the film using that language is not a problem.

Queen Sono

Queen Sono is technically not a film but a series, but as content to come out of Africa, it is genuinely historic. It is Netflix’s first script-to-screen series. This six-part series is about espionage and family intrigue set in Africa.  The show is fast-paced and is comparable to a Hollywood spy thriller.

Queen Sono showcases how African creators can come up with series and films that are world-class if they have the budget and proper backing. 

As proof of just how big this production is, the film is available in multiple original languages. It’s available in  English, French, Russian, Swahili, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu, Pretoria Sotho, Shona, Yoruba, and Xitsonga. That means a great deal of work has gone into translating and localizing it.

These are just some of the content from Africa that has gained popularity on Netflix. Because more and more Americans are getting used to watching foreign content on streaming platforms, you can expect other African movies and series to gain prominence in the coming years. Professional translation services and fluency in foreign languages are sure to get busy in the coming years in localizing all the content being made now.