5 Christmas movies with love, sugar and spice from Africa

By Stephen Aspeling18 December 2023

5 Christmas movies with love, sugar and spice from Africa

Christmas is a strange time of year. Hollywood would have you believe it’s about snowmen, stockings on the fireplace and staying off the naughty list. While this northern hemisphere logic has been foisted upon pop culture like a patchwork blanket as if everyone dreams of a white Christmas, it’s a whole different story down south.

Our festive season has more to do with gammon, biscuit assortments and swing ball than figgy pudding and eggnog, cranking up the air con rather than roasting chestnuts at the hearth. One of the best times for holidaymakers to visit South Africa, you may find Christmas trees, cookies and even milk for Santa and his reindeers but swap the woolly jumpers for flip flops! Here are 5 Christmas movies with love, sugar and spice from Africa!

Twisted Christmas

Twisted Christmas on Showmax

Having 12 official languages speaks to the diversity of South Africa, a country that serves as a microcosm for the world. Home to many cultures and religions, “happy holidays” can mean a great many things over the festive season. Twisted Christmas is an entertaining comedy that pokes fun at the melting pot that is Cape Town as two families from different walks of life are forced to spend the holidays together.

Celebrating diversity by contrasting the leafy suburbs with the colourful Bo-Kaap, this breezy holiday movie centres on two matriarchal figures who can’t swallow their pride. When the high and mighty Laurette wants to have her koeksuster and eat it, Zainab struggles to open her heart and home. Co-starring Kate Liquorish and Euodia Samson, this lively and heart-warming comedy also features Abduragman Adams, Waldemar Schultz and marks the feature film debut of Melissa Myburgh.

Home Affairs: A Christmas Tale

Home Affairs Christmas on Showmax

Big family gatherings can be joyous occasions but it’s often a relief that they only happen over the festive season only. Home Affairs: A Christmas Tale focuses on one such holiday as a mother and father welcome their children and their partners over to celebrate Christmas by the sea. A hub of excitement with wedding bells and many big announcements on the horizon, this family getaway proves to be filled with just as much heartache, as confessions and secrets rise to the surface, threatening to ruin Christmas for everyone.

A star-studded local drama chock full of light-hearted comedy and risky romance, Home Affairs: A Christmas Tale is directed by Lizé Vosloo and features Hilton Pelser, Christia Visser, Celeste Loots, David Viviers and Deon Lotz. Taking a fly-on-the-wall approach to mining the nuances of the relationships on display, this ensemble grapples with what could be described as a Love/Hate, Actually.

Herb & Moon

Would it even be a Christmas movie without a side order of schmaltz? Herb & Moon is a sweet and sentimental family comedy drama about a rebellious grandfather who breaks out of his old age home to spend Christmas with his granddaughter. A playful film filled with charm and heart, it centres on a jolly Santa-esque performance from Robert Whitehead, who’s supported by Katherine Neethling and Keenan Arrison.

Every bit as quirky as its fun soundtrack and Tolstoy references, Herb & Moon is about seizing the day, overcoming differences and celebrating family. The oddballs decorate this spirited comedy from Tim Greene like shiny baubles on a Christmas tree, delivering surprisingly vibrant and thoughtful dialogue. A naive and spirited yarn with its heart in the right place, Herb & Moon also checks all the boxes as an amusing and heart-warming Christmas tale.

Liewe Kersfeesvader

Liewe Kersfeesvader is on Showmax

Christmas movies are known to be warm and mushy, which is why it’s so refreshing to watch one that’s a little prickly. Liewe Kersfeesvader (Dear Father Christmas) is a quirky, growing-pains comedy drama that journeys with a teenage girl coming to terms with her father’s belief that he is, in fact, Santa Claus. Starring the captivating Mila Guy as a take-charge teen opposite a bittersweet Morné Visser, this is a funny, offbeat and touching dramedy.

Through stylish visuals, a deep-set Christmas motif and subtle handling, writer-director Etienne Fourie expertly navigates a quirky dark comedy tone. Sentimental enough to have a heart and funny enough to wrangle belly laughs, this is a smart, mature and well-acted tale that offsets the stereotypical feel-good schmaltz of holiday movies with a healthy dose of family dysfunction.

A Boere-Krismas

A time for peace and goodwill, it’s not surprising to learn that the calamity of Christmas can also lead to tinsel-clad family dysfunction. If you’ve ever watched a home video or Modern Family, you’ll know just how much can go down when a family gets together. For budding filmmaker Claire, there’s now video proof after she ropes her future in-laws into participating in a candid fly-on-the-wall documentary.

A character-driven comedy drama with a mockumentary undertone, fitting in and finding oneself is at the core of the English-Afrikaans culture clash that is A Boere-Krismas. Trying to keep up appearances, this entertaining and enjoyable comedy finds the funny in social dynamics and Christmas traditions. This immersive and characterful Christmas movie from Willem Grobler features Johann Vermaak, Carel Nel, Albert Maritz, Ira Blanckenberg and Lara Toselli as Claire.

If you’re looking for something a little closer to the North Pole, you’re in luck!

Following on from A Royal Surprise comes the entertaining romance comedy A Royal Christmas Surprise, just in time for the holidays (streaming on Showmax from 21 December 2023). Starring Thapelo Mokoena and Jennifer Freeman as Mandla and Riley, the handsome couple find a new challenge to their “happily ever after”. Now engaged, their families descend on Los Angeles as two fierce matriarchs struggle to compromise on plans for the dream Christmas Eve engagement party. Defying the spirit of the season, goodwill and peace on earth, a royal showdown ensues as Auntie Gina and Queen Nobantu lock horns in Poppy Peaks with impassioned performances from Trisha Mann and Abena Ayivor.

Then, instead of coming to America, it’s going to Africa with A Merry X-Mess. Following A Familiar Christmas, this Kenyan holiday feature finds the Nyati family trying to survive the holidays when two competitive sisters attempt to win the church’s Christmas choir competition in seven days. Beliefs, traditions and personalities clash as interpersonal meddling and a battle for matriarchal control threatens to ruin Christmas. Spirited fun, competition mayhem and family drama stir things up in this festive zinger.

And finally, in keeping with the heartwarming holiday theme, shift gear into the Nigerian family drama, School Run. Centred on the Kalejaiye family, career-driven parents Timileyn and Adeola clash when their precious son, Bolu, is picked up by the wrong bus driver. After a simple school pick up goes wrong, a desperate search begins in an effort to bring Bolu back home for the holidays. Starring Greatness Ewurum as young Bolu, this taut tale about every parent’s worst nightmare is rounded off by Ifeanyi Kalu and Amanda Iriekpen. Speaking to the importance of balancing work and family, School Run reminds us what matters most.

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