Sean Jacobs

Founder-Editor, Africa Is a Country, and Associate Professor, International Affairs, The New School.

Voted for

The Battle of Algiers1966Gillo Pontecorvo
Borom Sarret1963Ousmane Sembène
Do the Right Thing1989Spike Lee
The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On1987Kazuo Hara
In the Year of the Pig1968Emile De Antonio
Mapantsula1989Oliver Schmitz
Come Back Africa 1959Lionel Rogoson
Sans Soleil1982Chris Marker
Fruitvale Station2013Ryan Coogler
Monsoon Wedding2001Mira Nair


The Battle of Algiers

1966 Italy, Algeria

The Battle of Algiers stands alone as a masterful piece of anti-colonial filmmaking and the best in the genre of fictional documentary. It is as relevant as ever.

Borom Sarret

1963 Senegal, France

Borom Sarret is by the Senegalese filmmaker (and former dockworker), Ousmane Sembene, influenced by his studies in the Soviet Union. The film is only 18 minutes long, but points to some of the unfinished business and new class politics of independent Africa.

Do the Right Thing

1989 USA

Probably the best piece of agit-prop cinema ever made on the violence of racism in one of the US's big cities.

The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On

1987 Japan

Filmmakers as diverse as Michael Moore and Errol Morris swear by The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On, about a Japanese Second World War veteran embarking on his own truth and reconciliation commission.

In the Year of the Pig

1968 USA

One of the definitive film works on the US's colonial war in Vietnam.


1989 South Africa, Australia, United Kingdom

The story of gangster-activist, Panic, made by the black-white South African duo of Thomas Mogotlane (now late) and Oliver Schmitz. The definitive feauture on 1980s Apartheid South Africa.

Come Back Africa


After Lionel Rogosin directed "On the Bowery" in 1956, he then turned his gaze to late 1950s Herrenvolk South Africa. "Come Back Africa," shot mostly with an amateur cast and from the perspective of the black majority, won the critics award at the Venice Film Festival. It also introduced the world to the singular talent that is Miriam Makeba.

Sans Soleil

1982 France

A brilliant piece of cut-and-paste, experimental documentary film. It is also partly a film about solidarity and the politics of liberation.

Fruitvale Station

2013 USA

Of its time (the Black Lives Matter moment) and Ryan Coogler's best work.

Monsoon Wedding

2001 USA, Italy, Germany, France

I wanted to include a love story on my list. Mira Nair is one of the masters of the genre: It's a dead heat between two of her films: "Mississippi Masala" and "Monsoon Wedding." For me, Monsoon Wedding - beautifully shot and rich in detail - just gets the nod.

Further remarks

It's no accident that these ten films are mainly by filmmakers from or who focus their lenses on the Global South, particularly Africa. That said, they cover themes and world historical events that resonate far beyond those locales (and exposes Western blind spots). Finally, they are made by filmmakers whose brilliance and technical quality can stand next to the best from Euro-America.