People love video streaming services because they let you watch classic shows or buzzworthy new movies from the comfort of your home. You don’t need to dig through DVDs or Blu-rays, or hope something is good on live TV. Beyond this convenience, streaming video services also present an opportunity for small, independent work to reach vast new audiences by breaking down traditional distribution barriers. This is especially true for films from outside the United States. KweliTV (Kweli is Swahili for “The Truth”) tries its hardest to give movies and shows from Africa, and the larger Black diaspora, a chance to shine. The passion is admirable, and the results are successful.
What Can You Watch on KweliTV?
When I was a kid, my family and I stumbled across a film festival celebrating Nollywood, the robust Nigerian film industry. I cherish that memory. KweliTV replicates that same sense of artistic discovery, mixed with cultural nourishment, and blows it out in a way only a video streaming service can. To put it another way, do you want to expand your imagination of what African filmmaking looks like beyond just watching Black Panther on Disney+? KweliTV is the service for you.
This collection of more than 400 movies and shows presents artistic voices from across the globe you would never find this easily anywhere else. There’s Africa United, a comedy about young Rwandan soccer players. The Trial of Jeff David, a true crime podcast about former slaves falsely accused of murder in the 1800s. Short films about Ugandan mothers. Documentaries about Cuba’s Black Mozart. Black Enuf, a cartoon about LGBT hip-hop lovers. All sorts of ruminations on the politics of Black hair. KweliTV’s library is exciting, inspiring, and packed full of stuff no other streaming service can offer you. Its curation reminds me of other services that treat film like art, including the Criterion Channel and Mubi.
The inevitable downside of KweliTV’s specific library is all of the content it simply won’t have. Not everyone is always up for being challenged by a serious look at the history of Rastafarianism. Sometimes you just want to zone out with something familiar, whether that’s Brown Sugar’s nostalgic collection of Blaxploitation movies or BET+’s library of hit mainstream Black movies and TV shows. Our Editors’ Choice Netflix serves all possible audiences, from high-minded documentary viewers to families that love sitcoms to the biggest fans of the trashiest reality TV.
Costs and Platforms
A standard KweliTV subscription costs $5.99 per month or $49.99 per year. That’s right in the middle of the Black-focused streaming services we’ve tested; Brown Sugar costs $3.99 per month and BET+ charges $9.99 per month. However, KweliTV also has some generous, flexible pricing options, and not just the seven-day free trial. Students receive a discount that knocks the price down to $3.99 per month. As with Amazon Prime, KweliTV lets you rent shows and movies a la carte for $2.99 each for 24 hours. That rental pricing is flat and video quality depends on whatever title you purchase. Your subscription gives you discounts at more than 35 Black-owned businesses (including African Ancestry and Heritage Box), access to KweliTV’s in-person meet-ups (whenever those return), and the good feelings from knowing one percent of your money goes to a charitable cause.
You can also enjoy the live TV service, 24 hours of KweliTV library broken up by ads, for free. Editors’ Choice Peacock is free with ads, but Hulu charges $5.99 per month and still shows commercials. You can’t watch KweliTV’s live TV on your browser; it’s only available via its mobile and media streaming device apps, which is a weird restriction.
Speaking of apps, you can download KweliTV’s apps on mobile (Android and iOS) and media streaming devices (Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku). To use the service on a game console, KweliTV suggests launching it from a browser, which does technically work, live TV aside. KweliTV also recently launched on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex.
KweliTV on the Web and Mobile
KweliTV’s web interface is dense because the service is trying to make sure nothing it has to offer gets overlooked. The top navigation bar has tabs for browsing, reading the site’s mission, seeing payment plans, downloading apps, buying merchandise, and meeting up for events. The main page highlights one title up top and lets you browse through rows of genres below, along with your own watchlist. KweliTV has a lengthy list of genres including Award-Winning, Experimental, Animation, and tags for specific parts of the world like Africa, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. After all, Africa isn’t a country, it’s a continent containing massively varied cultures spread across the globe.
Click on a show or movie to see more of its details. You can see the runtime and country of origin, useful information when deciding on an international short film. KweliTV makes it easy for independent filmmakers to submit their work, and you can view the profiles for each author and filter your searches for their material. Share what you’re watching on social media, add it to your favorites, and leave a comment alongside the official description. Amazon Prime, Mubi, and Shudder also allow comments. You can watch trailers and browse through related videos on the same screen.
I experienced no playback issues over my home Wi-Fi connection (60Mbps download). Some films let you adjust the video quality up to 1080p, but support for full HD streaming is not consistent. You can speed up playback, go full-screen, or switch to a picture-in-picture mode. You can also enable an autoplay feature that surprises you when it’s time to watch something new. Customer service is always available if you experience issues.
On mobile platforms (I tested on an iPhone 11 running iOS 13), you gain the ability to skip forward and back 15 seconds, but lose the ability to adjust streaming quality. You also get mobile downloads for offline viewing, a great feature available on apps like Disney+ and HBO Max. You can also stream concurrently on an unlimited number of devices, something we don’t see too often. Editors’ Choice VRV and totally free services are exceptions.
KweliTV’s merchandise store is essentially a different website powered by a company called Spreadshirt. Here you can show your love by buying shirts, hoodies, and hats. It’s nice to see that merchandise stores for streaming services can be for more than just anime fans looking to prove how much they love Goku.
Accessibility and Parental Controls
KweliTV’s library ranges from heavy documentaries to cartoons for children, so it’s meant for a variety of audiences. Unfortunately, there are no parental controls. Your account is just for managing your payment options and customizing an avatar picture. At least shows targeted towards kids and teens are separated into their own tab.
Accessibility features are also lacking. Some viewers need subtitles no matter what, but even if you aren’t hard of hearing you may have trouble understanding the thick accents in some of these shows and movies. Unfortunately, your options are very inconsistent. Some films let you turn on closed captioning. Others do not. Movies in other languages typically have subtitles baked in. The choice seems to be up to the individual author. That maybe makes it easier for filmmakers to submit their work, but we would like to see KweliTV create and enforce a standard.
KweliTV and VPN
A VPN is one of the best tools for staying safe online. Changing your virtual location, to another state or another country, can improve your privacy. That said, a potential side effect could be your video streaming service stops working as it’s only meant to be viewed in one region.
Fortunately, given KweliTV’s focus on international content, I was glad to see the service played nice while I connected to ProtonVPN servers in the US and abroad from my Windows test device. That could change in the future as companies get better at blocking VPN traffic, but personally that seems like it would go against KweliTV’s ethos.
KweliTV makes the argument for why we need so many different streaming services. Some films and some filmmakers, particularly those from underrepresented groups, need strong advocates. KweliTV gives you no excuse not to check out what African and global Black cinematic art have to offer. The flexible pricing, discounts, and swag just sweeten the deal. That said, our streaming video Editors’ Choice, Netflix, also has an admirable collection of original Black movies and TV shows along with the rest of its mainstream library. So, don’t feel too guilty if that’s the only video streaming service you have room for in your life. Meanwhile, Hulu and YouTube TV are our top picks for live TV streaming, with their broad range of channels.
|Starting Price||$5.99 per month|
|On-Demand Movies and TV Shows||Yes|
|Offline Downloads on Mobile||Yes|