Dosunmu's 'Restless City,' the best African film of 2011?

I finally got to see director Andrew Dosunmu’s debut feature film, “Restless City,” this summer (at the Urban World Film Festival). The story, part American dream narrative, revolves around a young West African immigrant, Djibril, who lives in Harlem, trying to start his record career, while selling CDs and delivering packages and mail on his moped. Djibril (played by Sy Alassane) falls for a beautiful woman, Trini (Nicole Grey), who also happens to be a prostitute. Djibril wants to rescue her from her pimp, with devastating consequences. But that narrative is only part of the story. This film is also about how New York City is framed. This is a beautiful but hard city for the growing African immigrant population who reside in its margins. And the city is a star of the film; whether the small uptown apartments, subway cars, dance clubs, hairdressers, etcetera. The actors speak in Wolof, English, French and Yoruba. The pace is slow but engaging, there’s a certain lyricism to it and it is beautifully shot (that’s the work of director of photography Bradford Young). It is also stylish (the costume designer is Mobolaji Dawodu of The Fader) and it has a soundtrack of Don Cherry‘s jazz. In my book it is probably the best African film this year.

Like his film, Andrew is always on the move.  (Check out his fashion photography for The Fader or his earlier music videos for Janet Jackson or Common or his book about African football). Word is he is already working on his next film: a feature about an immigrant family, titled “Ma’George” and starring Isaac de Bankole and Angelique Kidjo and with Bradford Young as d.p.

* We have some top 10-lists coming next week, but I wanted to get in a word first.

Further Reading

Between East Africa and the Gulf

Political encounters between the Arab Gulf and Africa span centuries. Mahmud Traouri’s novel ‘Maymuna’ demonstrates the significant role of a woman’s journey from East Africa to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


It’s not common knowledge that there is Iran in Africa and there is Africa in Iran. But there are commonplace signs of this connection.

It could happen to us

Climate negotiations have repeatedly floundered on the unwillingness of rich countries, but let’s hope their own increasing vulnerability instills greater solidarity.

Defying defeat

Political prisoner Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s collection of writings are a powerful and evocative reminder that democracy in Egypt remains a bleak prospect.