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Framing Africa

Framing Africa: Portrayals of a Continent in Contemporary Mainstream Cinema

Edited by Nigel Eltringham
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Framing Africa
    Book Description:

    The first decade of the 21st century has seen a proliferation of North American and European films that focus on African politics and society. While once the continent was the setting for narratives of heroic ascendancy over self (The African Queen, 1951;The Snows of Kilimanjaro, 1952), military odds (Zulu, 1964;Khartoum, 1966) and nature (Mogambo, 1953;Hatari!,1962; Born Free, 1966; The Last Safari, 1967), this new wave of films portrays a continent blighted by transnational corruption (The Constant Gardener, 2005), genocide (Hotel Rwanda, 2004;Shooting Dogs, 2006), 'failed states' (Black Hawk Down, 2001), illicit transnational commerce (Blood Diamond, 2006) and the unfulfilled promises of decolonization (The Last King of Scotland, 2006). Conversely, where once Apartheid South Africa was a brutal foil for the romance of East Africa (Cry Freedom, 1987;A Dry White Season, 1989), South Africa now serves as a redeemed contrast to the rest of the continent (Red Dust, 2004;Invictus, 2009). Writing from the perspective of long-term engagement with the contexts in which the films are set, anthropologists and historians reflect on these films and assess the contemporary place Africa holds in the North American and European cinematic imagination.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-074-0
    Subjects: Film Studies, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction Cinema/Chimera? The Re-presencing of Africa in Twenty-First-Century Film
    (pp. 1-20)
    Nigel Eltringham

    In November 2004 I attended the annual meeting of the African Studies Association in New Orleans. A flier inserted into the conference programme invited participants to a screening of a new film,Hotel Rwanda, at a small arts cinema nearby. After the showing Terry George, the director, explained that this was a ‘low budget’ film (U.S.$17 million) that might only get a limited release (at that point there was no U.K. distributor), saying that with a minimal publicity budget, ‘We depend on word of mouth to spread the word on this movie’. Three months later the billboard next to my...

  4. One ‘Print the Legend’: Myth and Reality in The Last King of Scotland
    (pp. 21-38)
    Mark Leopold

    The main characteristic ofThe Last King of Scotland, Kevin Macdonald’s 2006 film about Idi Amin Dada (President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979), is its air of verisimilitude. Students and others with whom I have discussed the film invariably ask whether it is true, and some are shocked when I point out that it is a work of fiction, based on Giles Foden’s 1998 novel of the same name. A cursory internet search of the film title reveals a similar obsession with its truthfulness or lack thereof. The Wikipedia entry, for example, (accessed 28 September 2011) includes a section...

  5. Two Black Hawk Down: Recasting U.S. Military History at Somali Expense
    (pp. 39-71)
    Lidwien Kapteijns

    The Hollywood filmBlack Hawk Downrevisits the history of the U.S. military Operation Irene in Mogadishu, Somalia on 3 October 1993.¹ The battle that ensued consisted of sixteen hours of intense urban warfare, during which Somali fighters downed three Black Hawk combat helicopters, killed nineteen U.S. soldiers, and dragged some of their bodies through the streets of Mogadishu. The film was based on the 1999 book of the same title by Mark Bowden and a film script by Ken Nolan. It was shot in Morocco, directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, both veterans of the genre...

  6. Three Pharma in Africa: Health, Corruption and Contemporary Kenya in The Constant Gardener
    (pp. 72-90)
    Daniel Branch

    The end of the Cold War posed a mighty challenge to its great storyteller. Between the lines of accounts of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, John le Carré could, in his own words, ‘read my own obituary’. He had little choice but to become ‘the spy novelist who came in from the Cold War’ (Gussow 2000). Although his attention shifted away from the intrigues of the Cold War, le Carré’s willingness to tackle the big issues of the day was undimmed. In the afterword to a new edition ofThe Secret Pilgrim,...

  7. Four War in the City, Crime in the Country: Blood Diamond and the Representation of Violence in the Sierra Leone War
    (pp. 91-112)
    Danny Hoffman

    The final shots of Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, come in the forty-eighth minute of Edward Zwick’s 2006 filmBlood Diamond. What had until that point been an unstated but pronounced tension between the rural and the urban in Sierra Leone gives way to a more conventional Hollywood narrative of Africa. For the remaining ninety minutes West Africa is jungle, river, farm and sky. African fighters are bush warriors, a natural feature of the rainforest and savannah. The only urban settings are global cities such as London, Mumbai, Antwerp and Cape Town. What happens in the African bush is implicitly...

  8. Five Showing What Cannot Be Imagined: Shooting Dogs and Hotel Rwanda
    (pp. 113-134)
    Nigel Eltringham

    How is one ‘to show what cannot even be imagined?’ asks the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (1978) at the end of a critical review of the TV mini-seriesHolocaust(1978). Whatever the answer, filmmakers remain intent on telling stories of genocide. Keir Pearson (2005: 15, 20), the screenwriter forHotel Rwanda(2004), felt it ‘was a story that had to be told’, while the film’s director, Terry George (2005: 23, 25), recalls a visit, a year before the film was shot, to the Murambi genocide memorial in Southern Rwanda and writing in the visitor’s book, ‘I promise to tell the...

  9. Six Torture, Betrayal and Forgiveness: Red Dust and the Search for Truth in Post-Apartheid South Africa
    (pp. 135-155)
    Annelies Verdoolaege

    The landscape looks reddish and dusty at the onset of the filmRed Dust(2004). Immediately we witness a convoy of large trucks thundering through the barren interior of South Africa, the symbol of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission painted on their sides; it is 2000 and the itinerant Commission is coming to town. The town referred to is Smitsrivier, a fictional town where the nightmares that took place under the apartheid regime are about to be relived.

    The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a unique conflict-resolving mechanism, where amnesty was granted in exchange for the truth.¹...

  10. Seven Go Amabokoboko! Rugby, Race, Madiba and the Invictus Creation Myth of a New South Africa
    (pp. 156-174)
    Derek Charles Catsam

    The great theme that pervaded South Africa’s first decade after the fall of apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela as the country’s President and global icon was

    ‘reconciliation’. That theme of reconciliation was perhaps best captured in the spirit ofubuntu, which was popularized by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who headed the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (see Verdoolaege, this volume; Wilson 2000, 2001; Ross 2002). Butubuntuwas best embodied by Mandela himself.

    Ubuntuis a concept that is difficult to translate into English. Stemming from both the Xhosa and Zulu languages,ubuntucomes from the root of...

  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 175-176)
  12. Index
    (pp. 177-186)