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Prof. David Campion




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EAST AFRICA IN FILM


SOME of the most enduring images of East Africa in the popular imagination have come from films. While the films listed below vary in quality, most are excellent and effectively recreate the environment and compelling issues that indigenous communities, explorers, and European settlers living in different parts of East Africa faced at various points in their history. And since films are the media through which much of the general public gain their impressions of East African history and society and through which they are exposed to the natural beauty of this region, they are worthy of our consideration for that reason alone.

The Kenya Film Commission works to make that nation a center of excellence in film production. This includes helping to create and sustain an environment for the development of a vibrant local film industry as well as marketing Kenya as a leading destination for foreign filmmakers.

Below is a selection of films useful for complementing our study of East Africa. Most of these can be obtained at Watzek Library or through the Summit Library Consortium. You can also find many of them on Netflix.

Some information courtesy of Internet Movie Database. Used with permission




The African Queen (1951)
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
Something of Value (1957)
Guns at Batasi (1964)
General Idi Amin Dada (1976)
The Flames Trees of Thika (1982)
Out of Africa (1985)
The Kitchen Toto (1988)
A Shadow on the Sun (1988)
White Mischief (1988)
Mountains of the Moon (1990)
Nowhere in Africa (2001)
Masai, the Rain Warriors (2004)
The Constant Gardener (2005)
Hip Hop Colony (2005)
The White Masai (2005)
Kibera Kid (2006)
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Rain in a Dry Land (2006)
The Knife Grinder's Tale (2007)
Malooned (2007)
Zanzibar Soccer Queens (2007)





MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON

Director: Bob Rafelson, 1990

This film is based on the biographical novel by William Harrison and the travel diaries of Victorian explorers Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke. The film traces the friendship between Burton and Speke that grew during their 1856 expedition to find the source of the Nile. Their route took them through East Africa from Zanzibar to the shores of Lake Victoria.



© Artisan Entertainment



THE FLAME TREES OF THIKA

Director: Roy Ward Baker, 1982

Elspeth and her unconventional parents decide to settle down in British East Africa and begin a coffee plantation. This is a time of discovery for Elspeth, as she encounters the incredible beauty and cruelty of nature, and new friendships with both Africans and British expatriates. Eventually, however, the excitement of her life is disrupted by the onset of the First World War and the changes it brings. Based on the 1959 memoir by Elspeth Huxley.


© HBO Films



OUT OF AFRICA

Director: Sydney Pollack, 1985

This film tells the true story of Baroness Karen Blixen-Finecke, a Danish woman who relocated to the British East Africa Protectorate (Kenya) with her husband in 1914 to take charge of a large coffee plantation. Based on Blixen's 1937 autobiographical account written under the pen name "Isak Dineson". Out of Africa won seven Academy Awards in 1986, including Best Picture.



© Universal



THE AFRICAN QUEEN

Director: John Huston, 1951

This classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn is set in German East Africa (present-day Tanzania) at the start of the First World War. The story focuses on the relationship that develops between a prim missionary (Hepburn) and the crotchety steamboat captain (Bogart) hired to transport her to safety after the war breaks out. Based on the 1935 novel by C.S. Forester



© Horizon Pictures



A SHADOW ON THE SUN

Director: Tony Richardson, 1988

This television series depicts the remarkable life of Beryl Markham, a renowned aviatrix, author, and adventurer. Raised by her father in Kenya, young Beryl hunted with Masai tribesmen, bred racehorses, flew as a bush pilot, and repeatedly defied the constraining social and gender norms of the British colonial establishment. Based on Markham's 1942 memoir West with the Night.



© Starmaker Entertainment



NIRGENDWO IN AFRIKA | NOWHERE IN AFRICA

Director: Caroline Link, 2001

In the late 1930s, a Jewish family, the Redlichs, reluctantly emigrate from Germany to British East Africa to manage a farm. At first, not all members of the family come to accept their new life in such an "uncivilized" society. However, with a return to Germany impossible given the persecution of Jews, the Redlichs must make the adjustment. They soon find themselves treated more humanely by Africans than they ever were in the supposedly civilized Europe from which they fled.

© Sony Pictures



THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO

Director: Henry King, 1952

As writer Harry Street lays gravely wounded from an African hunting accident he feverishly reflects on what he perceives as his failures in love and writing. Through his delirium he recalls his one true love Cynthia Green who he lost by his obsession for roaming the world in search of stories for his novels. Based on the classic 1936 short story by Ernest Hemingway.



© Twentieth Century Fox



WHITE MISCHIEF

Director: Michael Radford, 1988

Set in British East Africa (Kenya) during the 1940s, this film offers a fascinating study of the decadence and moral bankruptcy of life in "Happy Valley", a colonial enclave in the eastern highlands outside Nairobi. The plot revolves around a lovers' triangle that ends in murder, but it also highlights the arrogance, idleness, and debauchery of the colonial expatriates. Based on a true story.


© Nelson Entertainment



THE KITCHEN TOTO

Director: Harry Hook, 1988

Mwangi is a Kikuyu boy whose preacher father is murdered by Mau Mau rebels in 1950. Soon afterward he goes to work as a house servant for a colonial police officer and his wife and young son. When the rebels kidnap Mwangi and make him swear allegiance to their cause, a potentially explosive situation arises. A gripping story about one of the bloodiest episodes in the history of British decolonization and the birth of modern Kenya.


© Warner Home Video



SOMETHING OF VALUE

Director: Richard Brooks, 1957

Peter, a Kenya settler boy, and Kimani, a Kikuyu, are childhood friends. After his father is jailed for following tribal customs, Kimani joins the Mau Mau rebellion. Kimani believes in the cause, but does not agree with the indiscriminate killing of women, children, and those who will not join or support the rebels. Peter, even after the deaths of his little sister and brother by the Mau Mau, still believes that there is a chance for peaceful co-existence. Based on the 1955 novel by Robert C. Ruark.

© MGM



GUNS AT BATASI

Director: John Guillermin, 1964

Regimental Sergeant-Major Lauderdale is an old-school martinet assigned with other British NCOs and officers to a remote African outpost to train soldiers of a newly independent former colony (a thinly veiled Kenya). When a populist uprising overthrows the government, soldiers loyal to the new regime take over the barracks prompting a tense standoff with Lauderdale and his men. Released in 1964, at the height of decolonization, this film is a useful artifact of British feelings about the end of their empire.

© Twentieth Century Fox



THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

Director: Kevin Macdonald, 2006

Nine years after Uganda gained its independence from Britain in 1962, a former private in the King's African Rifles named Idi Amin seized power. This film is a fictionalized version of the reign of Amin as seen through the eyes of Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish doctor who quite accidentally becomes the dictator's personal physician. A chilling portrait of Amin's erratic and murderous regime as well as the trauma of postcolonial Africa in the wake of British rule. Based on the 1998 novel by Giles Foden.

© Fox Searchlight



GENERAL IDI AMIN DADA

Director: Barbet Schroeder, 1976

In this chilling yet darkly comic documentary, French director Barbet Schroeder turned his camera on the infamous dictator of Uganda, revealing the dynamic, charming, clownish, and dangerous man whose fanatical neuroses held an entire nation in their grip. Made with the full support and participation of General Amin, the film consists of a series of sit-down interviews and staged public appearances. Amin later denounced the film after some unflattering narration was added before its release.

© Criterion



DIE WEISSE MASSAI | THE WHITE MASAI

Director: Hermine Huntgeburth, 2005

Based upon an autobiographical novel by Swiss writer Corinne Hofmann, the film tells of a girl, Carola, whose vacation in Kenya takes an interesting turn when she becomes infatuated with a Masai man. Carola decides to leave her boyfriend to marry her new lover and remain in Africa. There, she has to adapt to the Masai way of life as well as face up to her husband's attitude towards women and what he expects from a wife.


© Metropole Canada



RAIN IN A DRY LAND

Director: Anne Makepeace, 2006

In 2004, thirteen thousand Somali Bantu refugees realized their dream of coming to America. They are now living in fifty cities across the country, becoming the largest African group from a single community to settle in the United States at one time. This documentary chronicles two years in the lives of two extended Somali Bantu families as they leave behind a legacy of oppression in Africa to face the challenges of living in a strange new land.


© Working Films



MASSAÏ, LES GUERRIERS DE LA PLUIE | MASAI, THE RAIN WARRIORS

Director: Pascal Plisson, 2004

This French film follows the lives of a group of young and inexperienced Masai warriors on a search to bring back the mane of Vitchua, a mythical lion and incarnation of the god of revenge. In doing this they believe they will put an end to the drought that has cursed their land. As they press onward through the plains of Kenya, the young warriors are at every moment confronted with danger, betrayal, fear, and competition to become men.


© Universal



THE CONSTANT GARDENER

Director: Fernando Meirelles, 2005

Justin Quayle, a British diplomat stationed in Nairobi, investigates the brutal murder of his healthcare activist wife despite the wishes of his superiors that he rely upon the official inquiry for answers. Instead, Quayle discovers a sinister conspiracy between his government and the pharmaceutical industry to test experimental drugs on unsuspecting Nairobi slum dwellers. Based on the best-selling 2001 novel by John Le Carré with scenes filmed in Kibera, Nairobi's notorious slum and the largest in all of Africa.

© Universal



THE KNIFE GRINDER'S TALE

Director: R.L Hooker, 2007

This short film tells the story of Ogwang, a countryside knife grinder who loses his son to an angry mob in a Nairobi slum. Wanting to know the place and circumstances of his son's death, Ogwang sets out on a journey to bridge the distance between love and death in the face of violence. Based on a short story by award-winning Kenyan author Yvonne Adhaimbo Owuor.



© R.L. Hooker



KIBERA KID

Director: Nathan Collett, 2006

Otieno is a twelve-year old orphan living in Kibera, Nairobi's largest slum. He lives with "The Razors," a gang of petty thieves. After a theft gone bad, Otieno is forced to choose between saving an innocent man's life and his loyalty to the Razors, the only family he knows. A compelling look at the widespread poverty and violence that is a daily reality in much of urban East Africa.


© Hot Sun Films



HIP HOP COLONY

Director: Michael Wanguhu, 2005

This documentary traces the unique development of hip hop music in Kenya. US influences have combined with the traditional music of Kenya to create a new style, "Genge," that is extremely popular throughout the country. The documentary intersperses concert footage and interviews with musicians and producers. An interesting glimpse into how contemporary East African culture is shaped and influenced.


© Emerge Media Film



MALKIA WA SOKA ZANZIBAR | ZANZIBAR SOCCER QUEENS

Director: Florence Ayisi, 2007

Passion for soccer transcends gender boundaries and challenges the traditional image of women in Zanzibar, a predominantly Muslim society. The team on which this documentary focuses is the aptly named "Women Fighters." Established in 1988 against the wishes of conservative religious leaders (who objected to their attire), the club has prospered despite limited facilities and continued opposition. Today the Women Fighters are able to play against and frequently defeat their male counterparts.

© Iris Films UK



MALOONED

Director: Bob Nyanja, 2007

In this original Kenyan comedy, Di is beautiful, intelligent, confident, and just the tiniest bit spoiled. From their first meeting, Luther can see that nothing makes her happy, especially the thought of spending her weekend with him. Yet when they are trapped together in the ladies room on the 15th floor of a Nairobi office building, the two have no choice but to make the best of their forced holiday together.


© Cinematic Solutions Ltd.




Created by campion@lclark.edu
Updated: August 2014