Geography has always been one of my greatest passions. If any of my classes involved it, I certainly excelled in them. I was fortunate to meet people from several countries as well as growing up in a multi-ethnic area during my childhood. This also bears repeating. One of my favorite TV shows of my childhood is the game show version of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? of all things, and not just because it has one of the greatest theme songs of all time. Geography plays a huge role in Iridium Eye because I cover a TON of world cinema. I could even make a strong case in saying that I’ve watched and reviewed more movies from more countries than several other film critics. It was really cool seeing some animated works, fantasy, or sci-fi from countries I would’ve never expected.
Sometimes I find it missing from other nations.
Several countries have their own stories and mythologies for centuries or even millennia depending on the nation. The thing is one doesn’t see it from certain countries in literary and especially visual media such as TV and movies. As one knows, I’m a big fan of positive representation and I do want to see things from other countries.
For this list, I’m coming up with 7 countries that I want to see stories from involving their own culture and mythology shown in some way, shape, or form. I would also prefer it with the people from these countries making them, so I should make this clear. Let’s get global, people!
7: Solomon Islands
Let’s kick this off with a country that I’ve never covered yet. The South Pacific has gotten some representation in various genres. Australia and New Zealand are a given, but you certainly have things from the Polynesian community even in a mainstream context (Moana being the most obvious recent example). You do know there are other countries and ethnic groups in Oceania, right? I recently did research on Melanesian ethnic groups and one of the countries that came up features a majority of those of that ethnic stock. Solomon Islands would be a great start with a fantasy movie or TV show. One could go oceanpunk for a futuristic vibe or even use a period piece revolving around Melanesian mythology. For an example that’s specific to the Solomon Islands, there’s a chief god in their mythology called Agunua. He’s a serpent god of the sea. Not only that but in these stories, the first coconut of each fully-grown tree is seen as holy in that particular creation story. Odin and Zeus already have enough attention, so this could expose more people to Solomon Islander stories much less the Melanesian culture at large. I could see lots of potential with these types of stories.
I’m sure some of you are surprised that I would put a European country on this list and I don’t blame you for feeling that way even though I’ve reviewed a couple of Welsh movies before and reviewed two certain documentaries involving certain people with the same athletic profession. Compare this to other parts of the British and Irish Isles when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi. England? Too many examples to mention. Scotland? You’ve got Brave for an animated example. Ireland (I’m referring to the Irish isles whether it’s the Republic and/or Northern Ireland)? Look at what Cartoon Saloon has been doing for over a decade now with The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, and Wolfwalkers. Is Wales the red-headed stepchild of the UK? What was the last major movie to incorporate Welsh fantasy elements? The Black Cauldron? That country certainly gets overlooked compared to England, Scotland, and Ireland just in general. Even Americans don’t know that much about Wales. If there was one European nation that could use some movies done right with those genres, it’s the Land of the Red Dragon.
Now another country involving a dragon on a flag! I swear there’s no pattern going on here. Hahaha! Similar to Wales with getting a lack of representation in a European context, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bhutan ever used or even mentioned in an Asian fantasy work. Shoot, I’ve never reviewed a Bhutanese movie yet. Japan, China, Korea, and even Thailand have may more of a spotlight than this country. You’re talking about a nation that still has a monarchy to this day and the kings are titled Druk Gyalpo which literally means “Thunder Dragon King” in their native language of Dzongkha. How can you NOT make a story with that as a motif? The landscape of that country would look great in a movie with the mountainous regions, palaces, and some older architecture around there. Here’s also a fun fact: Bhutan is one of the happiest nations on the planet. Want to make that country happier? Having Bhutanese directors make a story involving their own culture, that’s what! Maybe they could have animated shows and movies that could rival that of Japan and call it Bhutanime (patent pending). You never know.
South America gets some representation over here. I don’t think I’ve seen Ecuadorian culture shown in movies and shows. This is coming from a guy who’s actually reviewed an Ecuadorian movie with Cronicas, for crying out loud! When it comes to Latin America at large, Mexico gets a ton of shine, Brazil certainly has its own things, and even Ecuador’s next-door neighbor of Peru technically got featured in a Disney movie of all things. Do you want to know which movie that was? The Emperor’s New Groove. That’s right. Even that movie’s main character is named after a Peruvian city. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if Ecuadorians made their own fantasy or sci-fi works like basing something around pre-colonial times with the Quechua and/or other Indigenous people who are still in that country or having a futuristic version of Quito, Guayaquil, or Galapagos Islands? My choice of Ecuador has something going for it that none of my other choices on this list have…this is the only country I’ve been to besides America. Think about that for a minute. Seeing the locales and meeting the people was certainly a positive experience. You would also have a diverse country with the Latinx community, Indigenous people, Caucasians (mainly of Spanish descent), and you even have Afro-Ecuadorians in that country, so this could be potential Deggans Rule-breaking material when done right. Seeing that country in a fantasy setting would be very cool.
Some of you who know about me and my blog are now probably thinking this: “About time he mentioned an African country!”. Yes, I’ve been watching a lot more African movies on here which has been obvious and I’ve talked about how the continent actually has filmmakers directly over there. I think Ethiopia is grossly overlooked in terms of locales, especially in a fantasy or sci-fi setting. We’re talking about one of the oldest active countries in the world as well as their people interacting with (even existing before) the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks several millennia ago. Not to mention the oldest human skeleton Lucy was found in this country. Just saying. Could you imagine the culture and history being presented respectfully there? The possibilities would be endless. I’d rather see an Ethiopian-based fantasy movie than whatever whitewashed flick of Egypt that Hollywood rolls out with every few years even though they’ve been getting backlash as of recently (Wonder Woman shouldn’t be Cleopatra, dang it!). Ethiopia has massive potential with filmmakers from that country trying to make their own fantastic story or possibly a sci-fi one with a spacey kind of Addis Abbaba or Makele for example. Wow, I’m excited even thinking about the possibilities!
If you see Cameroon on here, then I think you can guess why I have this country on there and possibly my #1 pick, but we’ll get to that later. Movies taking place in Africa can be so amorphous in that one doesn’t know which country or countries it takes place in or there’s an entirely fictional nation used for the movie. Case in point: Wakanda in Black Panther when it comes to fictional locales. I rest my case. Don’t even get me started on other Hollywood-created movies that don’t give a crap about African geography much less the cultures. Cameroon is one of the many Bantu-majority countries and their mythology would be sweet to show on the silver screen by Cameroonian filmmakers. Yes, I’m aware of the tragic issues going on there when it comes to the languages, but one solution for a movie especially if it’s a fantasy work is to use the dialogue in Fula, Ewondo, Baka (not the Japanese word for “idiot”) or one of the other languages native to that nation as a potential unifying force as well as giving it a proud identity in using something straight out of the nation. One could even do some stories about the Manga Bell dynasty (no, the name has nothing to do with Japanese comics and ringing instruments) for example. Come on, don’t let Nigeria, Egypt, or South Africa have all the fun making movies for example! I would like to see something made from here with those genres.
1: The Congo
SURPRISE! Even though this is technically a tie from a sovereign state standpoint, I don’t think anyone who’s been following this blog would doubt that I would put anything involving this part of Africa on such a list. Sure, I may have reviewed Congolese movies such as Felicite, Benda Bilili!, or the action short No One for example, but I’ve never reviewed a Congolese fantasy or sci-fi work. Whether it’s from the modern-day DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) or Congo-Brazzaville, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t seen it happen. These countries have robot traffic lights and have one of the oldest calculators in history with the Ishango Bone, but not a fantasy or sci-fi work rooted in Congolese culture? That really needs to change. I want to see something like a mecha show, some royalty on an epic adventure, or even a fantasy drama rooted in the history of this part of Africa. There are things like the Congo Cosmogram which was featured in La Maison Noir which would be perfect for a fantasy setting and could establish the philosophy over there. One could make something involving the larger Kingdom of Kongo in a pre-colonial setting and that would also involve other countries such as Angola, Gabon, or parts of the modern Central African Republic to name a few from a historical and geographical standpoint. For those who’ve followed this blog, one may know that I’m of Congolese and Cameroonian descent through my mom’s side which I didn’t know about until a couple of years ago which was a huge revelation. Yes, there’s a bias there, but I think a Congolese fantasy epic or Afrofuturism story would be super sick. I’m also tired of seeing Africa as one amorphous location given how there are over 54 nations and that’s not counting dependent territories on the mainland or the islands on the tectonic plate. Seeing something from the area known as the “Heart of Africa” would be amazing especially if it was made by a Congolese creator.
So that’s my list. What countries would you like to see represented well in a fantasy or sci-fi setting like movies, TV, or even animation?
All photos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.
The Ecuadorian flag is from Country Flags.
The Ethiopian flag is from Country Flags.
The Cameroonian flag is from Custom Flags.