Intriguing, joyful, tragic and triumphant are just a few ways to describe the 5 best Africa documentaries. Each one of these films showcases the people, traditions and stories of one of the most exotic places in the world. Taking a hard look at a continent mired in colonial history and the violence of war, all of the best documentaries about Africa provoke thought and empathy, and some even offer a glimpse of the sublime.

  1. "The Lazarus Effect".  This HBO documentary by Lance Bangs focuses on the AIDS epidemic in Africa and the need for more accessible treatment. The film follows Constance Mudena, a woman who lost all of her children to the disease. Before learning about a free clinic that supplies drug treatment for AIDS patients, Constance faces a sobering decision every month: food, shelter or medicine. Constance's story is like countless others, and this film traces the magnitude of change that medication can bring for a myriad of people on the continent.

  2. "Africa's Forgotten Soldiers".  Africa is probably not the first place you think of when you think about World War II, but this BBC documentary may change that. The film chronicles the skirmishes on African soil, and showcases the narratives of the African men who served for the British in Europe. Taught to read, write and fight for the British Empire, these soldiers returned home changed men, often to villages that remained the same.

  3. "Invisible Children: Rough Cut".   "Invisible Children: Rough Cut" is one of the best Africa documentaries out there, showing the brutality and violence that the young children of Uganda experience at the hands of the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army. This film spotlights the journey of "Night Commuters", the young children who travel many miles every night, seeking protection from this violence.

  4. "War Dance".  This Academy Award nominated film is one of the best Africa documentaries ever produced, demonstrating the resilience of the human spirit in the face of total brutality. In war-torn Uganda, the L. R. A. (Lord's Resistance Army) kidnaps young children, turning girls into sex slaves and boys into soldiers. Thousands of children seek refuge from the L. R. A. in the Patongo camp, and this film follows several of the camp's children as they pursue their dream of winning the National Music Competition. Despite the grizzly circumstances that these children face, they find light and hope in music and dance.

  5. "An African Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby".  Although much media centers on the hardships that many Africans face, one of the best Africa documentaries highlights the triumphs of the continent, both old and new. In this three-part BBC documentary, well-known television personality Jonathan Dimbleby takes audiences on a journey through the interior of the continent, exploring the ancient traditions and emerging markets that make up modern Africa.