This article is framed by Adichie's (2010, 2) warning of ‘the dangers of the single story’. It investigates the local specificities and global resonances of the representation of violence projected in two African films. The documentary by Ross Kemp on gangs in Pollsmoor Prison in South Africa (2003) captures and generates distinct cinematic biographies that extend our perceptions of production, exhibition and distribution. In contrast, the fictional film, Dakan, by Guinean producer Mohamed Camara (2001), cinematises the enigma of homosexuality as taboo and an aberration, including the attendant socially constructed homophobia. Both films markedly underemphasise the political and pedagogical imperative of African film producers and audiences, and in this they contest ‘established’ representations of violence that have characterised documentaries about Africa and ‘Third Cinema’ (Solanas and Getino 1996). More critically, this article questions the palpable occlusion of systemic violence that characterises the multiple and complex views of Africa in these two films, to unpack the novel documentation and reformulation of violence, as disseminated by Kemp and Camara.