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When Hollywood Goes Africa

Hollywood has been "visiting" Africa several times. Through time we have been offered a glimpse of historic insight, but mostly completely misleading information from these films. A story often told is that of "a white man in Africa". Africa and the people are often only used as an exotic backdrop of a lousy movie. Nevertheless a few of the films below are actually small masterpieces. Here is a few of both kinds in no special order.

Bogart in the swampThe African Queen

UK/USA (1951)

Master of storytelling, John Huston, takes us on a great adventure navigating a small boat through Africa during WW1. Humphrey Bogart is the ever drunk captain who has to put up with the missionary played by Katharine Hepburn. It is no great surprise that they eventually fall in love, but it is great filmmaking as they don't make it anymore.

 

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Michael Douglas in the Ghost and The DarknessThe Ghost and The Darkness

USA (1996)
This action drama is based on a true story from 1898, when the British were constructing the railroad through Kenya (view photos from Kenya). Man-eating lions killed several workers and british engineers. The movie describes the Africans with the same ignorance as common hundred years ago, but it is still good old-fashioned action. Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas stars in the movie, which is shot on location in South Africa and Kenya.

 

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King Solomon's Mines

USA (1937)
The classic story of white hunter Allan Quartermain who takes the job of helping a young woman to find her lost husband somewhere deep inside Africa. This oldest version is dircetd by Robert Stevenson and stars Paul Robeson, Cedric Hardwicke and roland Young.

 

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King Solomon's Mines

USA (1950)
The best of the Solomon movies. Story is the same: Qartermain falling in love with the woman he is guiding through the wild and dangerous Africa. Starring Deboarh Kerr and Stewart Granger. Good adventure entertainment and quite impressive action sequences for the time. Filmed spectaculary on location in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo and USA.

 

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King Solomon's Mines

USA (1985)
The worst of the 3 versions features Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. Mainly fails because it tries to copy the style from Indiana Jones. Several script errors, bad dialogue and directing. Some of the film is shot on location in Zimbabwe.

 

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Congo

USA (1995)
Directed by Frank Marshall
A silly adventure-action-horror film based on a book by Michael Crichton. The story is actually a modernised version of king Solomon's Mines with a touch of King Kong, Indiana Jones, Jurrassic Park, Aliens and a "talking" plastic gorilla on top of it all! Does it sound bad? It sure is. Parts of the movie are filmed on location in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

 

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Mogambo

USA (1953)
Directed by John Ford. A great Hollywood cast of Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly.

 

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Hatari!

USA (1962)
Adventure film with John Wayne, directed by Howard Hawks. A group of men are making their living from trapping animals and selling them to zoo's in Europe and America. A woman shows up. She is a wildlife photographer and questions the mens methods. Exiting, entertaining and good action scenes, but no more. Filmed mainly in the national parks of Tanzania. "Hatari" is the swahili word for danger.

 

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The Snows Of Kilimanjaro

USA (1952)
A wounded writer rethinks his life while waiting for relief. Gregory Peck stars in this movie based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway. Not much is actually shot on location in Africa.

 

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The Last Safari

USA (1967)
Stewart Granger is onece again the great white hunter. He is hunting a giant elephant which killed his best friend. Filmed on location in Kenya and directed by Henry Hathaway.

 

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Shaft in Africa

USA (1973)
Starring: Richard Roundtree
Directed by John Guillermin
The third "blaxploitation" movie with Shaft takes him back to the African continent to infiltrate modern day slave business and bring it down. No great film, but funny and interesting if you are interested in how black Americans portrayed themselves in films in the early seventies.

 

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A Far Off Place

USA (1993)
Family adventure/drama directed by Danish Michael Solomon for Disney Pictures(!) Shot in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

 

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Tarzan

USA (1999)
The animated Disney version of the Tarzan story. Don't expect to see any Africans in this story. I guess it doesn't need further introduction.

 

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Sheena

USA (1984)
This female version of Tarzan was first put on the screen in 1955 and like Tarzan, Sheena was created as a comic book figure. Directed by John Guillermin and starring Tanya Roberts as the orphaned blond girl growing up with an African tribe. Sterotypic, as can be expected, and skinny plot. Some audience (mostly male) will enjoy watching a half-naked Queen of the jungle riding on the zebras and fighting bandits. The story takes place in a fictitious African state, but was filmed on location in Kenya.

 

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Sahara

USA (1943)
Directed by Zoltan Korda
World War 2 fought in the Sahara. A recommendable war movie starring Humphrey Bogart, but not very much about Africa.

 

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