Earlier this year, the Chief content officer of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, and a team of executives traveled across the African continent. They met with local creatives to expand Netflix into areas with remarkable talent that has not been fully exploited. Through this journey, Netflix was able to bring to its audience two great South African series; Blood&Water and Queen Sono.
Blood & Water
Blood& Water was scripted by award-winning South African filmmaker Nosipho Dumisa. This series joins the list of teen drama offerings on Netflix, such as On My block, 13 Reasons Why and Elite. Blood & Water starts with a birthday party, couples snuggling inside a huge mansion while the cool kids try to find safe hideouts to smoke. At this kind of party, there are people who are recognized at the door and those who must make a few phone calls to get their name on the guest list. As the birthday girl interacts with her guests, one awkward attendee does everything possible to keep a low profile as she makes her way through the crowds. The environment, the partying, this is a stereotypical teen drama. The only difference is this time round, it is not filmed in London or Los Angeles but rather Cape Town, South Africa. The birthday girl is Fikile Bhele and the awkward attendee is Puleng Khumalo. Later in the series, we learn that Puleng Khumalo is on a mission to find her long lost sister. She finds her way into Parkhurst College, a school of the elites and academic overachievers. It is from this prestigious college that she tries to solve the case of her abducted sister. The entire series is centered around the mystery of finding out whether Fikile is Puleng’s long lost sister. After a couple of plot twists filled with scenes about romance, lies, drug use, roller coaster friendships, the answer to this mystery becomes certain in the last episode of season one.
Representation of South Africa and Africa at large.
Any young adult who has watched blood & Water probably has Cape Town as a must-go destination on their bucket list. Capetonian life is characterized by endless partying, which was adequately represented in this series. Blood & Water also focuses on class divides in school and society. It captures Africa in a way most of the world never gets to see. From the posh parties at Capetonian nightclubs to the luxurious mansions of the elite class down to the lower end of Cape Town, which houses the middle class. It does not focus on depicting Africa as a dark continent, which is poverty-stricken, and neither does it focus on the colonial era. It tries to bring out an exciting part of Africa. This depiction does not imply poverty does not exist on the continent, but occasionally, it is good to show the world there is a lot in Africa besides poverty.
Queen Sono brings out an entirely different perspective on South Africa. Filmed mainly in Johannesburg, Queen Sono is a detective series that merges action with South African culture. South African culture is embodied in the rhythms which are in Afrikaans, Zulu. The conversations between cast members are mainly in English but frequently mixed with different dialects. The series revolves around the life of a spy, Queen Sono, played by Pearl Thusi. It focuses on both her personal and professional life and her journey of trying to be successful in the different aspects of her life. From jumping over fruit stalls hunting down criminals to dinners with politicians and spending time with friends and family, the series sufficiently captures the life of Queen Sono. The final scene showing the explosion of Johannesburg Park Station reminds viewers about the nation's history of apartheid. In 1964, Frederick Harris of the African Resistance Movement planted a bomb on the "whites only" platform as a message to the colonialists to end racism.
What Could Have Been Done Better?
In Blood & Water, some critics and viewers believe the approach taken to tell the story could have been more South African. Some viewers believe that Blood & Water is just a Hollywood teen drama with South African actors. There was a need to distinguish between this African series and other teen dramas from different parts of the world. For the two series, Queen Sono and Blood & Water, some viewers argued that there were too many plot twists and there was more need for coherence. As fans impatiently wait for season two of these series, we hope the directors will use the criticisms to better the upcoming seasons. We expect more drama, more action, and nothing but the best from these two African series.