The 7 Must-See Africa Documentaries
In Alphabetical order... because ranking them was just too hard.
1. Africa (BBC Series)
Where to watch: Netflix (US), BBC Player (UK), Amazon Prime
This show really kickstarted modern day Attenborough documentaries and his efforts to urge people to save what is being destroyed in the natural world. Africa’s six episodes were filmed over four years with each episode focusing on a different habitat or region within the continent. Socializing rhinos and fighting giraffes, as well as year-long time lapses, make this arguably the BBC’s and Attenborough’s most memorable footage and narration, respectively, to date.
Attenborough perfectly finds the balance between a feel-good documentary and what the latter part of his career has been all about: urging humanity to save itself by protecting its remaining wildlife and natural areas.
Our Favorite Part: Watching two male giraffes battle it out in a dry riverbed.
2. Akashinga: The Brave Ones (Documentary Short)
Where to watch: National Geographic website or YouTube
Akashinga is a brand-new short documentary film about the Zimbabwean, community-driven, all-female anti-poaching unit that operates in the Zambezi Valley. To put it into one sentence: 14 minutes have rarely given us so much hope for the future of Zimbabwe’s wildlife as this film does—the fact that the next generation is female, trained as special forces, and cares about its country’s wildlife as a mother would for her children is incredible. Oh, and it’s directed by James Cameron.
Our Favorite Part: The women chanting the Akashinga oath in unison, "I vow to use my skills and training… to protect these animals…to protect this land. In this mission, I am prepared to give my life. This is my duty. I am Akashinga. I am a brave one."
3. Blood Lions: Bred for the Bullet (Documentary)
Where to watch: Vimeo (all), Amazon Prime (US), iTunes (UK)
A documentary feature film that “blows the lid off claims made by the predator breeding and canned hunting industries,” Blood Lions goes undercover to expose the fraudulent, abusive, and unethical practices that run rampant in the cub-petting, lion-walking, and trophy hunting industries in South Africa. They debunk the myths that these organizations purport of being conservation champions.
An informative and compelling film, Blood Lions lifts the veil that has covered the canned lion industry in South Africa for far too long.
Our Favorite Part: Learning about how the companies that offer cub-petting and walks-with-lions manipulate tourists to believe they are contributing to conservation and how tourists and tourism operators can help to end these unethical practices.
4. Brothers in Blood: The Lions of Sabi Sand (Documentary)
Where to watch: Youtube, Amazon Prime
A compilation of videos and photos from professional filmmakers and the field guides who saw these lions on a day-to-day basis, Brothers in Blood tells the story of the Mapogo lion coalition. The various narrators and people interviewed give their impressions about one of the most famous and well-documented lion coalitions of all time and how they ran amuck in the Sabi Sands for the best part of ten years.
The footage taken speaks for itself and the viewer gets a true, dramatic, yet un-sensationalized view into raw lion dynamics and the harsh realities of the circle of life in a lion pride. Think soap opera drama meets gangster movie on steroids, but about lions.
Our Favorite Part: All of it is mental.
5. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Drama)
Where to watch: Netflix
Based on a true story, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind tells the story of William Kamkwamba, a young 13-year-old who lives with his family of subsistence farmers in rural Malawi. When the family faces famine due to climatic conditions out of their control, William looks for a solution in a science textbook he finds at the local school.
Through extreme hardships, William develops a way to help his family, village and community. The film offers a great and accurate depiction of the life of a subsistence farmer in Africa--a reality that most viewers may not be privy to beforehand.
Our Favorite Part: The relationship between William and his dog Khamba.
6. The Hunt (BBC Series)
Where to watch: Amazon Prime, BBC player (UK)
The wildlife footage captured by BBC teams for The Hunt is second to none, as is David Attenborough’s iconic narration. The Hunt showcases the challenges that both predators and prey face to survive in the wild through a combination of incredibly high-quality drone, helicopter, and vehicle-based footage.
Rather than focusing on the gory details of the kill, this 7-part series narrates the strategies and tactics various animals display during the hunt. Episodes 1 and 5 feature hunts filmed in Africa, while the rest of the series is filmed elsewhere--but all episodes are still an absolute must-watch for any nature lover.
Our favorite part: Being able to see the tactics deployed by the wild dogs during their hunt via helicopter-shot footage.
7. Virunga (Documentary)
Where to watch: Netflix (US)
Virunga tells the incredible true story of an anti-poaching team risking its lives to protect the last mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park.
Through incredible undercover investigative journalism, Virunga exposes how the greed and corruption of the government and over-seas oil companies threaten the lives of the last surviving mountain gorillas and the dedicated men and women who have sworn to protect them.
Produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and a 2015 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature, this is one of the best conservation documentaries of all time to cover the dangers of conservation efforts and human-wildlife conflict.
Our favorite part: Seeing the trust the rescued gorillas have in their caretakers and how seriously their caretakers take that responsibility.
Watch the trailers!
Africa BBC Series Trailer:
Akashinga: The Brave Ones Trailer:
Blood Lions Trailer:
Brothers in Blood Trailer:
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind Trailer:
The Hunt, BBC Series Trailer: