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The 12 Best African Highlights On Showmax Right Now

From an Oscar-shortlisted animation to record-breaking reality series and critically-acclaimed Originals

The Snail and The Whale,  The Real Housewives of Durban, DAM, Tali’s Baby Diary, Raised by Wolves, I Am LAYCON  & more

THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE | First on Showmax | Stream now

The Snail and The Whale is currently shortlisted in the Oscars’ Best Animated Short category. The nominees will only be announced on 15 March 2021, but The Snail and The Whale is an early favourite, with Variety predicting a two-horse race between the ‘audacious’, ‘beautiful’, ‘adorable’ and ‘charming’ Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler adaptation and the ‘emotional’ If Anything Happens I Love You.

Animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish, with South African Daniel Snaddon as co-director, The Snail and The Whale follows the amazing journey of a tiny snail who longs to see the world and hitches a ride on the tail of a huge humpback whale. It’s a joyous, empowering tale about our wonderful world and discovering that, however small you are, you can make a difference.

Among other prizes, The Snail and The Whale has already won the Venice TV Award for Children/Youth, Best Short Film at Cartoons on the Bay, Best Children’s Animation at the BANFF Rockie’s Awards, and the Audience Award: 3-5 at New York International Children’s Film Festival as well as Best Voice Performance (for Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins as the snail) at the 2020 British Animation Awards.

The Snail and the Whale is produced by the Oscar-nominated Magic Light Pictures with two-time Oscar nominee Max Lang (The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom) co-directing with Snaddon. British Comedy Award winner Rob Brydon voices the whale and Golden Globe nominee Dame Diana Rigg is the narrator. Rigg – best known as Olenna Tyrell in Game of Thrones; Emma Peel in the TV series The Avengers; and Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, James Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – passed away in September 2020.

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF DURBAN S1 | First on Showmax | Binge episodes 1-5 now; new episodes every Friday

The first episode of The Real Housewives of Durban (RHOD) broke ’s first-day viewing record at the end of January and the reality series has remained the most popular series on Showmax ever since, until finally being pushed into second place this week by Mark Ruffalo’s 2021 Golden Globe-winning performance in I Know This Much Is True.

The drama started from the first episode, when Nonku Williams revealed she had a child with gospel legend Sfiso Ncwane, whose widow, Ayanda, is also part of the show. With LaConco having waited until episode 4 to make her grand entrance, the drama has just kept escalating, setting Twitter alight every Friday as new episodes drop.

Also featuring Annie Ludick, Kgomotso Ndungane, and Sorisha Naidoo, RHOD is the 24th international – and second South African – instalment of The Real Housewives franchise, which is distributed internationally by NBCUniversal Formats, a division of Universal Studio Group. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Real Housewives of Johannesburg is also available on Showmax.

“This is my new favorite show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #RHODurban Episode 1 has me hooked,” announced Minnie Dlamini on Twitter.

DAM S1 | First on Showmax | Binge now

Early reviews for the Original DAM, a small-town psychological thriller set in the Eastern Cape, are glowing. YFM’s resident critic Yazz the Student compares DAM to HBO’s The Outsider and says the “eerie” and “unsettling” show feels “different to the South African television landscape;” Sunday Times’ Tymon Smith calls it “chilling… well-acted, eerily realised and intriguing”; Fortress of Solitude says “it rivals any international production… a must-watch show that promises to fester in your mind long after the credits roll;” and Watkykjy hailed it as the “best South African series I’ve seen to date.”

Silwerskerm Best Actress winner Lea Vivier (Wonderlus) stars as Yola, who returns from Chile to bury her estranged father. To her surprise, and her sister’s irritation, he’s left his farm to her, but this may be more of a curse than a blessing, as the house seems to be trying to tell her something. But with her mother institutionalised, and her own meds running out, Yola has to wonder if the spirits are real or just in her head?

Two-time SAFTA winner Pallance Dladla (Shadow, Isibaya) co-stars as Themba, an intriguing biker on the run. Also look out for Hollywood actors Neil Sandilands (The Flash, The 100, The Americans) and Natasha Loring (Beaver Falls); SAFTA winner Antoinette Louw (An Act of Defiance, Die Laaste Tango); 2020 Africa Movie Academy Award nominee Faniswa Yisa (Blood Psalms, Knuckle City and Skin); aKing frontman Laudo Liebenberg (Black Sails, Die Byl), and Gerald Steyn (Meisies Wat Fluit, Fiela Se Kind).

TALI’S BABY DIARY | First on Showmax | Binge eps 1-4 now and 5-10 on 10 March

In Tali’s Baby Diary, an unexpected pregnancy forces Tali (Julia Anastasopoulos, aka SuzelleDIY) into a desperate pivot from Insta-influencer to wholesome momfluencer.

Early reviews are loving the new Tali. In a five-star review on Channel24, TV critic Thinus Ferreira hailed Tali’s Baby Diary as “the best South African TV show of 2021 so far, and 100% guaranteed to make you literally laugh out loud.”

New faces this season include Coconut Kelz and Danny K; stand-up comics Kate Pinchuck, Kurt Schoonraad, Nik Rabinowitz and Tracy Klass; SAFTA winners Deon Lotz (Skoonheid, Trackers), Schalk Bezuidenhout (Kanarie, Hotel) and Siv Ngesi (Knuckle City and Originals DAM and the upcoming Blood Psalms); and rising star Shamilla Miller (The Girl From St Agnes, ), along with some real South African momfluencers and Insta personalities.

RAISED BY WOLVES S1 | First on Showmax | Binge now

The biggest TV series ever shot in South Africa, Raised by Wolves is an HBO sci-fi show that centres on two androids tasked with raising human children on virgin planet Kepler-22b after Earth was destroyed in a great war.

Raised by Wolves has already been nominated for three 2021 Critics’ Choice Super Awards: Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series, Best Actor: Sci-Fi for Travis Fimmel (Vikings’ Ragnar) and Best Actress: Sci-Fi for Danish actress Amanda Collin.

Four-time Oscar nominee Ridley Scott, who directed the sci-fi classics AlienBlade Runner and The Martian, executive produces and directs the first two episodes. Inverse hails the show as “Ridley Scott’s best sci-fi since Alien… there’s no TV show quite like it.”

HBO has already renewed Raised by Wolves for a second season, with NME saying, “Ridley Scott’s AI stunner is on a different planet… one of 2020’s most unmissable TV experiences.”

KINGDOMS OF FIRE, ICE & FAIRY TALES | Stream now

Kingdoms of Fire, Ice & Fairy Tales has been nominated for Best Feature at The International Wildlife Film Festival in the US, one of the genre’s top festivals globally, and recently won Best Nature/Travel Film at The New York Cinematography Awards.

Missing travel? This awe-inspiring documentary will transport you to three of Earth’s iconic wildernesses: Yellowstone National Park in America; the Black Forest in Germany; and the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland. These are lands where waters boil, trees talk and the skies light up as if they are on fire. Lands where bears and wolves rule, where the planet never forgets to remind us of its power. Timeless lands that reveal what life was like a million years ago.

Presenter Bonné de Bod and film director Susan Scott previously collaborated on STROOP – Journey Into The Rhino Horn War, which won over 30 awards around the world. “Bonné and I were absolutely gutted after making STROOP and felt like we needed to find the wonder that is out there in the natural world,” says Susan.

JUNGLE BEAT: THE MOVIE | Stream now

Produced in Cape Town by Sunrise, Jungle Beat’s adorable animations have become a YouTube phenomenon, racking up nearly five million subscribers and over two billion views, as well as a host of awards. Now the animation’s stars, Munki and Trunk, have their own movie, with an 85% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a Best Feature award nomination from the 2020 edition of Annecy, the world’s most prestigious animation festival.

When a homesick alien crash-lands his spaceship near their jungle home, Munki, Trunk and their animal friends need to get him back to his ship and teach him about friendship and fun – before his father can take over Earth.

Screen International hailed it as “sweet, wholesome family fare that should win the approval of parents and hold the attention of younger viewers… Its cheery message of friendship, tolerance and acceptance does seem particularly timely and can only help endear it to viewers.”

POPPIE NONGENA | Stream now

From Christiaan Olwagen (Kanarie) comes Poppie Nongena, a multi-award-winning adaptation of Elsa Joubert’s classic novel. It tells the moving true life story of the title character, a domestic worker desperately trying to keep her family together while navigating the day-to-day struggle against inhumane government pass laws in 1970s South Africa.

Clementine Zita (aka Clementine Mosimane, aka Mama Rose Tladi in The Wild) won Best Actress at both the South African Film and Television Awards and Silwerskerm, where Poppie Nongena took home 12 awards, including Best Film. Anna-Mart van der Merwe also won the 2020 SAFTA for Best Supporting Actress, while DoP Vicci Turpin (Four Corners) was nominated at Camerimage, the biggest international festival dedicated to the art of cinematography. Poppie Nongena also won Best Picture at the BRICS Film Festival in Russia last year.

Channel24’s Herman Eloff hailed Poppie Nongena as a “tour de force, a cinematic feat, a South African story told with empathy, grace, bold ferocity and fearlessness. It’s a powerful fist in the air.”

I AM LAYCON S1 | First on Showmax | Binge now

In February 2021, I Am LAYCON broke the Nigerian record for the most-viewed show on its first day on . Weeks later, the reality series remains in the number one most-popular spot on in Nigeria.

The first Showmax Original shot and produced in Nigeria, I Am LAYCON follows the Big Brother Naija season five winner, Lekan Agbeleshe aka Laycon, as he settles into a life of stardom and chases his music career. The show features cameos from fellow Big Brother Naija Lockdown housemates including Lilo Aderogba and Victoria Adeyele, aka Vee.

Akanni of Lagos, better known as the president of the iCONS fan club, tweeted: “Omoh, that was so smooth. Those Aunties on 124 no do pass this one ooo. This is a pure class!”

CRIME AND JUSTICE S1 | First on Showmax | Binge eps 1 and 2 now, with new episodes every Monday

Crime and Justice is both Kenya’s first Showmax Original and Showmax’s first co-production with global broadcaster CANAL+. The Nairobi-set police procedural and legal drama stars Sarah Hassan (Plan B, Just In Time) and Alfred Munyua (Poacher, The First Grader) as Makena and Silas, the Nairobi Metropol Police detectives at the heart of the show. The eight-part series follows one ripped-from-the-headlines case per episode, all the way through to the courtroom verdict.

In the first episode, Silas and Makena investigate the gruesome murder of Abuya (Muhugu Theuri, Pillow Talk), a university student who was entangled in an illicit affair with the powerful politician Barasa (John Sibi-Okumu, The Constant Gardener, The First Grader).

Directed by Adam Neutzsky-Wulff working with an all-Kenyan production crew, Crime and Justice is written by Pauline Inda, Anthony Nero and award-winning Kenyan filmmakers Brian Munene (Watu Wote: All of Us), Njue Kevin (18 Hours) and Serah Mwihaki (Nairobi Half Life).

ONE NIGHT KWA MXOLISI | Stream now

In Joburg dramedy One Night Kwa Mxolisi, when a once semi-successful rugby player opens a new restaurant, his friends come to celebrate his success. But after one too many vodkas and a few too many truth-bombs, friendships are tested…

Actor Sisanda Henna (Trackers, Rogue, Griekwastad) makes his feature film directorial debut and stars as Mxolisi, opposite an all-star cast that includes Linda Mtoba (The River, Isibaya), comedian Donovan Goliath, Nyaniso Dzedze (Black Is King), Buhle Samuels (Kings of Jo’burg), Africa Movie Academy Award winner Fulu Mugovhani (Seriously Single, Still Breathing), and four-time SAFTA nominee Motlatsi Mafatshe (How To Ruin Christmas: The Wedding, Isidingo).

On IOL, Debashine Thangevelo called One Night Kwa Mxolisi a “brilliantly executed movie… A celebration of friendship, love, trust, communication and forgiveness,” adding, “Is it just me or did Sisanda Henna get hotter during the lockdown? I mean he is all kinds of smouldering on screen.”

GRIEKWASTAD | Stream now

Arnold Vosloo (Bosch, 24, The Mummy) and rising teen star Alex van Dyk (Die Stropers) lead the cast in Griekwastad, which recounts one detective’s investigation into the horrific 2012 murder of Deon and Christel Steenkamp and their teenage daughter, Marthella, on their farm Naauwhoek.

Written and directed respectively by SAFTA winners Tertius Kapp (Rage, 4 Mure) and Jozua Malherbe (Slot, Wolwedans in die Skemer), the chilling film is based on Jacques Steenkamp’s best-selling true crime novel The Griekwastad Murders: The Crime That Shook South Africa.

The all-star cast includes Trackers stars Sisanda Henna and Rolanda Marais, SAFTA winners Deon Lotz (Skoonheid, Tali’s Baby Diary), Crystal-Donna Roberts (Arendsvlei, Krotoa) and Jody Abrahams (Die Byl, Hard Copy), and rising star Jane De Wet (The Girl From St. Agnes, Rage).

On Daily Maverick, Keith Bain hailed the film as “an immersive, compelling and chilling piece of cinema,” while in The Citizen, Adriaan Roets called it “riveting, dark and ultimately intoxicating viewing.”

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL:
Other popular recent releases include:

  • Hailed as South Africa’s first gay romcom, No Hiding Here stars 2020 Fleur du Cap winner Earl Gregory (Kinky Boots), David Viviers (Kanarie, Rage, Tali’s Baby Diary), SAFTA winner Tiffany Barbuzano (Still Breathing), and multi-award-winning theatre legend Antoinette Kellerman (Mad Max: Fury Road), with a rare local appearance from rising international star Phumzile Sitole (Star Trek: Discovery, Orange is the New Black, The Good Fight)
  • Mzansi Magic’s new human trafficking drama series,Mzali Wami, starring SAFTA winner Masasa Mbangeni (The Republic, Scandal)
  • Season 2 of Mzansi Magic’s KwaMashu-set crime serieseHostela, which won Wiseman Mncube the 2020 SAFTA for Best Actor for Season 1
  • Mnakwethu: Happily Ever After?, Mzansi Magic’s popular reality series about polygamous families
    • The Day We Didn’t Meet, a romcom starring Lea Vivier (DAM) from Wonderlus director Johan Cronje

To see everything on Showmax in March 2021, including the 2021 Golden Globe-nominated musical comedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and the critically acclaimed documentary Allen v. Farrow, click here. Please note this release schedule is subject to change.