Press Play: 8 Riveting Documentaries and the Organisations That Go With Them


By Zarreen Kamalie

It’s incredible to think of what social enterprises and innovations are able to achieve, and even more so when you consider what they’re up against.

Documentaries are a great way to learn about a particular topic without sifting through countless articles. That isn’t to say you won’t find yourself scrolling through pages of possible documentaries . To make your life a little easier, we’ve compiled this list of documentaries under the categories Health and Poverty, Youth, Social Justice and Reconciliation, Development and Aid, and lastly, Women.

At the end of each summary, there’s a link to social enterprises working to combat whatever issue addressed in the respective documentary. Consider this your starting point to getting the full blow on a range of pressing issues in Africa.

Health and Poverty

  1.    Into The Light (2005)

Director: Peter Glenn
Producer: Peter Glenn

About: Tanzanian sociologist Wilhelmina Lyimo-Saria (Mama Lyimo -“Lee-Mo”) and Peter Glenn look into the socioeconomic factors surrounding the perpetuation of HIV/AIDS, aspects that not only affect Tanzania but other areas in Sub-Saharan Africa. The documentary interrogates the link between the pandemic and poverty, and what needs to be done about this collaboration. Lyimo-Saria exposes the horrific and emotional toll of the AIDS death rate in her East African country on a 40-day journey across Tanzania to see for herself why the pandemic continues to thrive.

See also: The Ubuntu Institute based in Johannesburg, South Africa, but operating throughout Southern Africa, has a number of programmes that aim to educate and empower women to combat the feminization of the pandemic.

  1.    Fire in the Blood (2013)

Director: Dylan Mohan Gray
Producers: Dylan Mohan Gray and Rumana Gray

About: Fire In The Blood focuses on Western pharmaceutical companies and governments and how they blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs for the countries of the global south from 1996. With over ten million deaths, this documentary chronicles the fight for the right to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), paying particular attention to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and all the criticism these brave individuals faced.

See also: Treatment Action Campaign is a South African HIV/AIDS activist organisation which was co-founded by the HIV-positive activist Zackie Achmat in 1998, campaigning for universal access to AIDS treatment through the public health system.

Youth, Social Justice and Reconciliation

  1.    Call Me Kuchu (2012)

Directors: Katherine Fairfax-Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Producer: Malika Zouhali-Worrall


Call Me Kuchu explores the struggles of the LGBT community in Uganda, paying particular attention to the murder of LGBT activist David Kato in 2011. Given the latest success in the US for the LGBTQI community, this is documentary serves as a harsh reminder of the challenges that this still persecuted community face in other parts of the world.

See also: David Kato was the Advocacy and Litigation Officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). It is an umbrella non-governmental organization based in Kampala, Uganda, that advocates for the protection and promotion of human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Ugandans.

  1.    Finding Hillywood (2013)

Directors:  Chris Towey, Leah Warshawski
Producer: Rob Angel

About: 20 years over the Rwandan genocide Finding Hillywood demonstrates how cinema has become a way for artists to express themselves and create intergroup dialogue. This documentary can be viewed as a Rwandan history lesson but also indicates the power of media as a catalyst for national healing.

See also: Global Arts Corps has used the transformative power of theatre to bring together people from opposite sides of violent conflict. Operating globally from Rwanda to Kosovo, Cambodia to the North of Ireland, Global Arts Corps has worked to facilitate reconciliation all over.

Development and Aid

  1.    What Are We Doing Here? (2008)

Directors: Brandon Klein, Nick Klein, Tim Klein, Daniel Klein
Producer: Brandon Klein

About: What Are We Doing Here? is a controversial documentary about why after 50 years of Western involvement and aid, Africa is still so poor. The documentary focuses on 3 brothers and their cousin who travel across Africa in an attempt to understand the failure to end poverty. Shot on location in 12 countries, “What Are We Doing Here?” sheds light on the intricacies of African poverty and the multi billion dollar aid and development industry dedicated to fighting it.

See also: An alternative to western-led financial aid is Lelapa Fund, a crowd investment platform dedicated to African companies. Drawing funds from individual African investors, namely part of the African diaspora, Lelapa Fund provides people with no-strings attached opportunities.

  1.    Stealing Africa (2012)

Director: Christoffer Guldbrandsen
Producer: Henrik Veileborg

About: Stealing Africa is a documentary that looks at Zambia’s copper resources and the way in which a country so rich, is still one of the world’s poorest. Similar to What Are We Doing Here? this documentary highlights the drawbacks of western investment and collaboration. Stealing Africa allows for a more case-specific understanding of the impacts of globalisation.

See also: The International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa, is a collective of 26 non-governmental and community-based organisations from across the continent. Included are also national networks within Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, the Netherlands, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The aim of this organisation is to foster a more just and sustainable use of natural resources in Africa that can lead to more inclusive development.

  1.    Darwin’s Nightmare (2004)

Director: Hubert Sauper
Producer: Barbara Albert

About: Darwin’s Nightmare looks at the effect of fishing the Nile perch in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria. The predatory fish, which has wiped out the native species, is sold in European supermarkets, while starving Tanzanian families have to make do with the leftovers.

See also: Much of Africa’s resource related issues stem from improper land distribution.In Zambia, Medeem is a social enterprise that aims to efficiently handle and document land right’s. They also seek to function as a fair and effective middle-man between larger enterprises and the little guy on the ground.


  1.    Hooking in Joburg (2010)

Director: Rohith S. Katbamna
Producer: Rohith S. Katbamna

About: Hooking in JoBurg takes place against the backdrop of the 2010 World Cup lead-up, with a personal look at sex workers and the core issues around HIV, security, human rights and decriminalization of sex work. It features vital perspectives from three sex workers concerning the reality about their current working conditions and the undeniable police brutality. This documentary captures the essence and key facts behind the discussion around the decriminalization of sex work, and human rights, with raw and personal input that will keep you engaged.

See also: Sonke Gender Justice has engaged with and challenged the South African government’s approach to sex work. To read more about the work they’ve done, and continuing to do, click here.


These documentaries should really get you thinking and pursuing these issues and the measures that are being taken to address them. As previously stated, documentaries are a great way to get in touch with the core of a topic, and you’ll definitely end up looking like that person that’s so great with current affairs.