It’s still pride month, and we’re queering it up one day at a time. We’ve given you a playlist of the best bops to get down to this season. Now, let’s move on to the best African queer documentaries. From underground ballroom culture to the dangerous intersection between religion and homophobia, these documentaries present a wide range of queer history and current struggles.
The Legend of the Underground
The American TV show, Pose, introduced the general public to New York’s underground ballroom scene when it premiered in 2017. But what if we told you that Nigeria had a ballroom scene just as resilient and beautiful? The Legend of the Underground is a documentary that explores different characters from Nigeria’s colourful ballroom scene. Shedding light on the complicated lives of members of Nigeria’s LGBTQ+ community both at home and abroad, it’s a must-watch that is both celebratory and eye-opening at the same time.
Born This Way
No, this is not a Lady Gaga project. The two characters this documentary follows are super obsessed with Lady Gaga and Rihanna, though (We stan taste in this house.) Set in Cameroon, Born This Way looks at the inspiring queer community in the country against the backdrop of a law that punishes homosexual relations with up to five years in prison.
God Loves Uganda
History has shown us time and time again that queer people existed in Africa long before the arrival of colonisers. And while “modern” religion brought a considerable amount of progress (Shoutout to the good sis, Mary Slessor), it also brought a large amount of homophobia.
God Loves Uganda is a 2013 documentary examining how American evangelicals are encouraging homophobia in Uganda after failing in America with the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage act. The documentary takes a deep dive into the intersection between race, religion and homophobia in Uganda.
I Am Samuel
This Kenyan documentary about the life of a gay man navigating life in a conservative country was banned because it was seen as an attack on the country’s culture and identity. Sis, what? Anyway, I Am Samuel looks at the life of the eponymous character, Samuel, and his partner, Alex. Shot over five years, it explores Samuel’s relationship with religion, his family, and the queer community in Nairobi, Kenya.
It’s almost an hour long, but trust us, it’ll be an hour well spent.
The Pearl of Africa
Ugandans are steady with the queer content, and I live! The Pearl of Africa tells the story of Ugandan transgender activist, Cleopatra Kambugu, and her fight for the fundamental right to live and love alongside her husband, Nelson. It shows the battle one woman has to face just to be accepted as a human being and loved in a country that fails to acknowledge her existence. This documentary will surely have you in your feels, so be ready to sob a little and be inspired like crazy.
Stories of Our Lives
This Kenyan project is more of a collection of short films than a documentary. Created by filmmaker Jim Chuchu, Stories of Our Lives shows queer life in Kenya through a series of five black-and-white short stories. Covering a broad spectrum of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex, the film, banned in Kenya, tells a collective story of people who have been relegated to the back of the line. It doesn’t give a voice; instead, it amplifies voices that the noise of bigotry have drowned out. An incredible project everyone should see even beyond this period.
Paris is Burning
While this documentary isn’t African, it’s an undeniable queer classic and an essential documentary. Paris is Burning is THAT girl. It follows the lives of drag queens living in New York City and the house-ballroom culture that provided them with chosen families and safe havens.