Any die-hard documentary fan will tell you what you’re missing if you think documentaries are dull and boring. They’re heartbreaking, gripping, eye-opening and nail-biting, and give you knowledge about things that you would normally not learn about. Sometimes, they can change your entire outlook on life.

Here are nine sizzling documentaries about the larger-than-life issues and figures that have shaped our continent, all available on Showmax.

1. The Flesh Business

This one-hour documentary will simultaneously break your heart and open your mind to the reality of prostitution in the coastal region of Kenya. Filmmaker Denis Maina’s project resulted from an experience in which a young underage girl approached him and offered her body in exchange for money. The film embarks on a sombre narrative told from the perspective of the commercial sex workers themselves in a series of interviews. The Flesh Business shines a light on the reality of the worst case scenario for child abuse, a problem that continues undetected and unfettered in Kenya. In 2017 this movie was selected by Africa’s biggest TV content market – Discop – as one of the 24 pilots that were officially screened during the sixth edition of the event held in Johannesburg. Watch now »

2. Lumumba: Death of a Prophet

Filmmaker Raoul Peck offers a film devoid of the usual heavy-handed propaganda theme expected when taking on a political figure. In this documentary he offers a provocative deconstruction of both colonial and postcolonial Africa. Peck presents us with an exclusive opportunity to review the life and legacy of one of Africa’s most notable figures. Lumumba comes across as a moving memorial to a man who was in equal measure described as a devil, giant, prophet, and a mystic of freedom. It is an intimate a study of how Lumumba’s legacy has been manipulated by other politicians, and muddied by time and sensational media representation. Watch now »

3. Children of the Light

Winner of both the Audience Award and the Harlem International Film Festival awards, The Children of the Light is the first film to narrate the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, one of South Africa’s modern-day founders. The film focuses almost exclusively on his political life, as well as his work with the late Nelson Mandela, both before and after imprisonment. It opens with interviews with Tutu and proceeds with historical footage illustrating his story and his battle against apartheid. Watch now »

4. Agostinho Neto

Agostinho Neto was the founder and one of the most important figures during the Liberation of Angola. This film explores him and delves into details about who he was as a man, a poet, a humanist and a hero, and offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself into a critical part of history. Watch now »

5. Idol of Africa: Mwalimu Julius Nyerere

Affectionately known as Mwalimu (Teacher) in his homeland Tanzania, Julius Kambarage Nyerere is equally fondly remembered as “The Father of the Nation”.  The film shows his work as the architect of Tanzania’s independence in 1961, and his instrumental efforts towards the subsequent unification with Zanzibar. Nyerere was a leader of pan-African vision and this documentary offers an account of the life of a wise politician and profound thinker. Watch now »

6. Adwa, an African Victory

In 1896, the people of Ethiopia managed to defeat a well-equipped and organised Italian military bent on conquest and colonisation of their land while mainly armed with rudimentary spears and knives. They rose to victory over the Italians at what is now known as the Battle of Adwa. Their triumph triggered an enduring sense of hope, freedom and independence in the hearts of the Ethiopian people. The film illustrates an inspirational source of African empowerment. It also reflects on the power of 100 years of oral tradition that allowed this story to be told. Watch now »

7. Sembene, the Making of African Cinema

This documentary gives insight into the life of Sembene and his works. It manages to capture the history, the struggle and the art of this great man in addition to a detailed portrayal of his works, while highlighting the struggles Africa endured under colonial rule. Sembene allowed the Black African people to finally have a voice through the medium of film. Watch now »

8. Amílcar Cabral

This is an illuminating documentary about African freedom fighter Amílcar Cabral, leader of the anti-colonial movement in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde, as narrated by his relatives and friends. Besides being a humanist and nationalist, Cabral was also a brilliant poet. The film shows sketches of his early life, his family and his time in the spotlight, including the eyewitness account of his assassination by his second wife. Watch now »

9. Mobutu: King of Zaire

This documentary film about Mobutu Sese Seko, the long-time President of Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is proof that sometimes fact can be more dramatic than fiction. Mobutu was one of the oldest and most persistent dictators that came to power after a successful coup d’ état in the former Belgian Congo. He renamed the country “Zaïre” and imposed on his people a 30-year-long “peace” based on fear, violence and repression. During his reign, he became one of the most wealthiest, most ruthless and most feared men in the world. Watch now »

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