You are on page 1of 23

TIAThis is Africa: Afropessimism in Twenty-First-Century

Narrative Film
Martha Evans
Ian Glenn
Black Camera, Volume 2, Number 1, Winter 2010 (The New Series),
pp. 14-35 (Article)
Published by Indiana University Press

For additional information about this article


http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/blc/summary/v002/2.1.evans.html

Access Provided by Western Ontario, Univ of at 10/07/11 8:44PM GMT

TIAThis is Africa: Afropessimism in


Twenty-First-Century Narrative Film

MARTHA EVANS AND IAN GLENN

Abstract

This paper considers new representations of postcolonial Africa via five big-budget
narrative films, including Hotel Rwanda (2004), The Constant Gardener (2005),
The Interpreter (2005), Blood Diamond (2006), and The Last King of Scotland
(2006). Although these films appear to have transcended old colonial stereotypes, a
new set of features and themes, all Afropessimist in nature, links them, suggesting
the Wests negative influence on perceptions of the continent. Although the films
show more commitment to realism and historical accuracy than previous cinematic
treatments of Africa, they still struggle to represent the real challenges and complexities associated with the continent. The limitations of genre and the pressures of
the industry result in several weaknesses, principally an inability to investigate the
social and structural elements of African history, the overreliance on white focalizers and narrators, and a tendency to generalize from particular cases to continental
trends.

umerous critics have attacked postWorld War II films about Africa


for giving a second life to old colonial (and often racist) stereotypes.1
Films as far apart in time as Trader Horn (1931) and Out of Africa (1985)
draw on earlier images of darkest Africa to justify colonial adventure
and romance, and the 1985 and 2004 remakes of King Solomons Mines
(1950) testify to the lure of the exotic. Toward the end of the twentieth century, however, other trends developed. A strong current of antiapartheid
films emerged and still continues (A Dry White Season [1989], Sarafina!
[1992], and Catch a Fire [2006]), and the most recent films set in other African countries show significant changes.
The Africa in these films is much more brutal than in earlier representations, but it is harder to attribute this to filmmakers ignorance or racism.
The films have been better researched, especially in the attention paid to realist detail, resulting in a bleak, Afropessimist outlook. Simply put, Afropessimism is the consistently negative view that Africa is incapable of progressing,

Martha Evans and Ian Glenn, TIAThis is Africa: Afropessimism in Twenty-FirstCentury Narrative Film, Black Camera, An International Film Journal, Vol. 2 No. 1
(Winter 2010), 1435.

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

15

economically, socially, or politically.2 The discourse, inspired by photojournalism and television reporting, particularly from the time of the Ethiopian
famine in 1984, has come to dominate representations of postcolonial Africa.
It is evident in a number of the films themes, including the warped economic
arrangements of the criminal state; the resource curse hypothesis;3 the
phenomenon of the child soldier (with the monstrous child as the perfect
embodiment of a doomed future); genocide; a new sympathy for white colonizers after independence; and kleptocracy and the big man syndrome.
Other trends include an examination of the unethical interests of multinationals, the shortcomings of other world institutions, and the catastrophic
effects of meddling foreign interests.
Rather than attempting a full account of every twenty-first-century film
about Africa, this paper concentrates on a spate of big-budget, relatively successful movies: Hotel Rwanda (2004), The Constant Gardener (2005), The Interpreter (2005), Blood Diamond (2006), and The Last King of Scotland (2006).
These films move away from South Africa, are set in the postcolonial period,
and center on the dilemmas of modern African states. The selected films
have achieved relative success, both financially and critically. All of them
share major features of Afropessimism, which demonstrate the emergent
western view of postcolonial Africa. While we look at a variety of filmic concerns, including mise-en-scne, casting, and especially the interplay between
historical accuracy and narrative, we also attempt to gauge reactions to the
films, particularly from African politicians.
The paper argues that, although refreshing in their attempt to look at
the continent from different perspectives, like the photojournalism coming out of third-world countries, these films effectively create an image of
Africa as other to the economically developed, safe west4 and equate the
continent with famine, disease, violence, and political turmoil, even if this
was never the journalistsor filmmakersintention. The films are at
times compromised by commercial imperatives as well as cinemas highly
intertextual nature, which links them to earlier stereotypes and draws on
familiar genres and narratives. Numerous critics have noted the resulting
limitations: the dependence on white protagonists5 that continues to situate African characters on the periphery; the tendency to approach Africa
with a totalizing gaze in order to generalize about regional or national
problems; a propensity to dehistoricize (and thus eternalize) events; the recourse to western psychological and familial models and plots (particularly with upbeat endings involving escape from Africa); a fascination with
the details of violence coupled with an inability to explain its causes; and
an avoidance of socioeconomic realities and political complexity,6 which
makes it difficult to realistically project positive images of the continents
future.

16

black camera 2 :1

Africa and Aberration in Hotel Rwanda


The first mainstream attempt at a serious look at contemporary Africa
came in 2004, ten years after the Rwandan genocide, with Terry Georges
Hotel Rwanda. The Rwandan tragedy, perhaps the most widely covered
event in African history since the Ethiopian famine, runs the risk of equating all of Africa with genocide, a trend which Mamdani and others argue is
already on the rise, as Rwanda turns into a metaphor for post-colonial violence.7 Like most material focusing on the genocide, the film goes to great
lengths to criticize the West for its delayed response. Under international
law, groups targeted by genocidal crimes are entitled to international protection, and the Clinton administration in the United States was accused of
avoiding the word genocide to describe events in Rwanda in order to shirk
its duty.8 In what might be seen as a gesture of apology for turning a blind
eye at the time, western filmmakers have produced a slew of films on the
topic in recent years, including One Hundred Days (2001), Sometimes in
April (2005), the BBCs Shooting Dogs (2005), Shake Hands with the Devil
(2007), and Une Dimanche Kigali / A Sunday in Kigali (2006).
Hotel Rwanda, the most commercially successful of these films, explores events through the eyes of the real-life figure Paul Rusesabagina
(Don Cheadle), the manager of the Htel des Mille Collines, who gave refuge to 1,268 Tutsis and Hutu moderates. Referred to as Africas Schindlers
List (and similarly criticized for focusing on heroism rather than history),
the film highlights the disastrous effects of colonial social engineering as
well as the consequences of forgetting the forgotten continent. Yet, like
the other films under discussion, it both underplays and overstates Africas
challenges.
Early in the film, the TutsiHutu conflict is posited as a consequence of
the colonial governments divide-and-rule tactics, documented to have favored Tutsis. The opening lines set the scene, as one of the genocidaires explains the situation for western audiences via a radio broadcast: When
people ask me, good listeners, why do I hate all the Tutsi, I say, Read our history. The Tutsi were collaborators for the Belgian colonists; they stole our
Hutu land; they whipped us. Now they have come back, these Tutsi rebels.
The point is dramatized later when a Rwandan journalist explains that
it was the Belgians who created the divisions: They picked people, those
with thinner noses. The Belgians used the Tutsis to run the country and
then when they left they gave power to the Hutus and, of course, the Hutus
took revenge.
Many critics have dismissed these attempts at historicizing as cursory,9
and though the film at least attempts to clarify historical events, the explanations fail to come to grips with the complexities of the pre-existing settler

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

17

and native identities located as a central source of the conflict.10 While Belgian colonists may have provided a modern state structure for the divisions
(by, for instance, introducing identity documents that classify Rwandans according to their ethnicity), they did not invent them. In some ways, in fact,
western modernity turned the traditional downtrodden (the Hutus) against
the dominant minority. In that sense, one might have expected Americans to
applaud the Hutus, but of course mass murder isnt the Boston Tea Party or
the American Revolution. So, to smooth out the contradiction, Hotel Rwanda
finds it easier to blame the Belgians for inventing something they in fact
found and built on, rather like the British using local chieftains.
The reason for this simplification lies not only in the limitations of cinema, but also, potentially, in the American tendency to view Africans
merely as good savages ruined by colonizing Europeans. In its myth of its
own origins as anticolonial and anti-European, the United States finds it
difficult to assume any responsibility for current events in Africa, even
though it was clearly the power that could have intervened most easily at
the time. Though investigative journalists have focused on the Clinton administrations indecision,11 the film doesnt give a face to American guilt.
Rusesabaginas manicured Belgian bosses (to whom he is portrayed as
overly subservient) are ensconced in their remote European offices, while
the Americans in the film, Jack Daglish (a Scot named Jock Daglish in the
original screenplay) and Colonel Oliver, played by Joachin Phoenix and
Nick Nolte, are portrayed as active on the groundrisking their lives to
record events for the media, protecting civilians, and trying to procure UN
assistance. Though loosely based on Canadian Romo Dallaire, there is
only one reference to Colonel Olivers Canadian roots, and Noltes prior
roles as American military characters (in, for instance, The Thin Red Line)
muddy the identity. African history, in this case, is dehistoricized also because of Americas pervasive anticolonial stance.
Yet this dehistoricization is not as troubling as it is in some of the other
films under discussion, because it isnt coupled with an overly fascinated portrayal of seemingly senseless brutality. Unlike Blood Diamond and The Last
King of Scotland, the film is surprisingly nonviolent. The horror of the genocide is filtered through the fear of victims seeking refuge at the hotel and via
Rusesabaginas brief journeys through the Interahamwe-controlled checkpoints in his search for supplies. For the most part, the genocide happens
off-screen12a technique common in films dealing with trauma13and this
allows audiences to identify with ordinary Rwandans instead of allowing
them to consume the images voyeuristically (as is the case in the more harrowing but ultimately alienating portrayal in A Sunday in Kigali).
In addition to the subtle approach, Hotel Rwanda, like Blood Diamond,
has been criticized for its sunny denouement,14 particularly in light of

18

black camera 2 :1

subsequent clashes in Burundi as well as ongoing uncertainties about applying the term genocide to Darfur. Because the film gives us one of the
happier stories from the genocide, it is in danger of creating a skewed depictionespecially since it appears to be a popular resource in African
Studies university courses in the U.S. The criticism of the films upbeat
ending highlights the difficulty in making mainstream films on African
themes. To tell modern African stories, many filmmakers appear to avoid
the question of Africas future altogether, falling back on upbeat endings
and sympathetic black characters who are saved from the wreck (frequently
through the sacrificial actions of white protagonists or through emigration
to the developed world).
The most obvious merit of the film is that it invites identification with
a black African character (albeit played by an American actor). Although,
as a middle-class figure, Rusesabagina does not represent the majority of
Rwandan victims, he is situated at the center of the drama, and it is refreshing to see Hollywood stars playing second fiddle.
Yet this Schindler approach was not met with praise from the postgenocide regime in Rwanda; instead, their response indicates discomfort
with Rusesabaginas valiant figure, raising the question of who is entitled
to speak on the countrys behalf. Since the films release, Rusesabagina,
now living in Brussels, has become a celebrated political mascot, has been
awarded medals, and is frequently invited to speak at public events in the
U.S. and Europe. His critical comments about the current government at
these events and in his autobiography, An Ordinary Man, have provoked
the ire of the Paul Kagame regime, which sees the media attention given to
Rusesabagina as inappropriate. To counter the publicity, Alfred Ndahiro, a
public relations advisor to Kagame, and Privat Rutazibwa, a well-known
Rwandan journalist, have coauthored a book, Hotel Rwanda or the Tutsi
Genocide as Seen by Hollywood. Though the book focuses rather narrowly
on the inaccuracies of the film in an attempt to deheroicize its central figure, refreshingly, it gives some insight into the way in which the film has
been received by those most affected by its topic. In an interview, Rutazibwa complains about the films reception, saying that Rusesabagina is
taking advantage of the fame he falsely gained from the movie to rebrand
the very ideology that led to the genocide that he claims to be the hero of.15
The debate between the Rwandan authorities and Rusesabagina is politically complex, but the response indicates a deep frustration over the lack of
control over global media images.
The films effacement of the causes of the genocide has more serious repercussions than misplaced heroism. Deflecting attention onto the Wests
delayed response and raising too few questions about the roots of the genocide leaves audiences to interpret it as an apparently atavistic inter-ethnic

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

19

conflict,16 a reading that feeds into existing views of the event as an anthropological oddity.17 In addition, like many of the genocide narratives, Hotel
Rwanda locates the genocide as an exceptional moment in time (suggested
by such titles as 100 Days and Sometimes in April), which not only adds to the
inexplicability of the violence, but also diverts focus away from current events
and the possibility of reprisals.18 In the case of Rwanda, overlooking the roots
of social violence could have dire consequences.

The Constancy of Corruption in The Constant Gardener


The next major film set in Africa was Fernando Mereilless 2005 adaptation
of John le Carrs The Constant Gardener. Like Hotel Rwanda, it points an accusing finger at the West, in this case a pharmaceutical company that is testing dangerous tuberculosis (TB) drugs on Kenyans. Tessa Quayle (Rachel
Weisz), the activist wife of Justin Quayle, a British diplomat (Ralph Fiennes),
is murdered when she tries to expose the deadly effects of the drug, and the
plot revolves around Justin Quayles search for his wifes killer while piecing
together the details of the scandal she has uncovered. This is the first mainstream film to look seriously at disease in Africa. The only way in which earlier films seemed able to apprehend the problem was allegorically (for
instance, in Outbreak [1995], in which an unknown African disease gets to
America through an illegally imported monkey), suggesting that Africa was
seen as a mysterious threat to action set almost exclusively in the U.S. The
Constant Gardener is more interested in the ways in which globalizing forces
have led to the exploitation of the worlds poor. Le Carr was much inspired
by journalistic research on the outsourcing of first-world drugs to thirdworld countries, and the much-publicized documentary expos Dying for
Drugs influenced Jeffrey Caines adaptation of the book.
But, as both film19 and book 20 reviews have noted, the conventions of
the thriller genre prevent the narrative from fully engaging with the complexity of the issue, both over- and underemphasizing Africas problems
with Big Pharma. While the negative side effects of drug trials are an issue,
greater problems include the ethical challenges associated with informed
consent21 and the fact that the developing world rarely enjoys the benefits
of medical research, either because the drugs are too expensive or because
they are irrelevant to their health needs. In its attempt to inhabit the thriller
genre, the movie creates the impression that Tessa Quayles damning report contains such revealing information that those with pharmaceutical
shareholders interests at heart will kill to prevent its release. Sonia Shah,
author of The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the Worlds Poorest Patients, points out that in real life, bad drugs and unethical research prac-

20

black camera 2 :1

tices often continue unhindered despite mountains of data and reports


detailing their defects.22 Getting the West to care is not as easy (or as dangerous) as the film implies.
The film also dehistoricizes Kenyas past. Le Carrs novel situates
events within the highly corrupt Moi regime in Kenya, and the representation of corrupt government officials led to its ban there. While the Kibaki
government unbanned the book and permitted the film to be made in the
country, they did so perhaps with the expectation of a more historical approach to events, as a statement from Raphael Tuju, Minister of Information and Communications indicates:
The Constant Gardener is very critical of Kenya, and it was unprecedented
that this ministry would support it and license it. But I went ahead and made
sure that we did so, because if we didnt support it being filmed here it was
still going to be filmed somewhere else, and it would still be critical of Kenya
in the past, with respect to issues like corruption.23

Nonetheless, the film fails to distinguish clearly between past and


present, and neither mentions Moi nor dates the events depicted. Instead,
the approach undermines the filmmakers intention to make the film thoroughly Kenyan. At the time of filming, Kenya had distinguished itself as
the first African country to vote out a leader through democratic elections.
Though political events have since turned sour, no awareness of a different
era is shown in the film. In the DVD extras on the filming process, much
was made of the decision to film in the country (instead of in South Africa
with its superior film infrastructure), suggesting a kind of obsession with
authenticity. But, like many of the other mainstream films on Africa, the
film privileges visual realism over historical accuracy.
The scene of the horseback raid in southern Sudan is a case in point.
Though the scene is actually filmed in Kenya, the remoteness of the location made the filming process hugely complex; yet the actual scene involves
little explanation of the Sudanese situation and operates instead as a visually evocative setting. As Justin gets closer to finding his treasure (in this
case Tessas damning report on the ThreeBees trials), so the suspense is
heightened through his and Dr. Marcus Lorbeers near death at the hands
of Sudanese tribesmen. Lorbeer provides scanty explanation for the audienceTribesmen. Nasty. They steal cattle, food, childrenbefore he and
Quayle are whisked away by plane.
The question of African violence is also elided in the film. It is never
made clear why the black Belgian Dr. Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Kound) is
murdered separately and quite so brutally. While the delayed discovery of
his body keeps Justin wondering about Tessas fidelity and the possibility

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

21

that her murder was a crime of passion, no rationale is offered for the particularly vicious nature of Bluhms elimination. (Though the film doesnt
show us the horror, we are given a detailed description of how Bluhms hit
men deemed it necessary to cut out his tongue and chop off his genitalia
and stuff them in his mouth before crucifying him alive.) While mutilation practices, particularly female circumcision, have been recorded in
Kenya, the filmmakers offer no solid explanation for Bluhms fate and, as
with Hotel Rwanda, seem to expect that audiences will simply accept the
gratuitousness of black-on-black violence.
Unlike Hotel Rwanda, however, Africa is filtered through the eyes of
white protagonists, a trend with which film reviewers appear to be losing patience even though it may be argued that it is a box-office necessity to make
the films acceptable for western audiences.24 Many of the white protagonists
in the new films on Africa are shown sacrificing their lives for postcolonial
countries, and a new sympathy attends white colonizers (the South African
Lorbeer, for example, is portrayed as a do-gooder caught up in a destructive
machine). The films conclusion features Justin waiting to be gunned down
alongside Lake Turkana. Like Blood Diamond, the implication is that the heros death will procure significant benefits for Africa. Not all reviewers were
satisfied with this trajectory, referring to it as a white mans burden movie25
that largely denies its victims a role in their own saving.26
On one level, the filmmakers appear to anticipate the limitations of
films refracted view of Africa, as indicated by the fuss made over Brazilian
Fernando Meirelless supposed third-world perspective.27 Yet, the films visual innovations (oversaturated film stocks, jarring angles, and miragelike focal planes) and real-life footage of the slum of Kiberia do not make
up for the absence of a central African character.

African Typicality in The Interpreter


The lack of a fully developed black African character was also a major complaint about The Interpreter (2005), Sydney Pollacks final film, which marks,
explicitly and persistently, a revaluation of attitudes toward African liberation.28 The film expresses despairing Afropessimism through visual elements, plot, character, symbolism, and casting.
In the opening sequence, we encounter the dystopia of the fictional
country of Matobo,29 a cross between Rwanda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
The imagery is of broken infrastructure and rusted slogans of independence. Three men, two white and one black, travel to a football stadium to
uncover evidence of a massacre. The black man and one white man go into
the dilapidated stadium, discover a changing room full of rotting corpses

22

black camera 2 :1

(recalling media images of the Rwandan genocide), but on emerging are


shot by two child-soldier hit men.
Matobo is run by Zuwanie, The Teacher, a former liberation leader
who has become president. His name recalls that of Julius Nyerere, whose
nickname was Mwalimu or teacher, and he also draws on elements of other
more frightening figures: President-for-Life of Malawi, Dr. Hastings Banda,
and of course Zimbabwes Robert Mugabe.
The link did not go unnoticed in Zimbabwe, where the movie was not
only banned but also provoked critical commentary from official government sources. The government-controlled Herald dismissed the film as
anti-Zimbabwean and CIA-supported,30 with Tafataona Mahoso, chairman of the Zimbabwe Media and Information Commission, calling it
cheap American and Rhodesian propaganda...typical of the tactics used
during the civil war.31 While this reaction has been described as paranoid32 by Zimbabwean opposition parties and the U.K. media, this dismissal risks overlooking the relative popularity of anti-West rhetoric
among ordinary Zimbabweans, a rhetoric that appears to have provided
Zanu-PF with an effective means of maintaining support. In this case, the
Wests negative reaction to political events in Africa has been used as a
means of drumming up support, and the scarcity of African reviews of The
Interpreter (as well as the other films) leaves a gaping hole in the commentary on such portrayals.
Central African characters are also glaringly absent from the films
narrative. The sister of the murdered white martyr is played by Nicole
Kidman, the interpreter of the title. She is working at the UN and is also
the former lover of the murdered black man, the leader of an opposition
party. The Kidman figure creates a new sense of the complexities of Africa
and whiteblack relationships, suggesting, like the Lorbeer character, that
whites have in some ways been victims of independence, not simply callous exploiters. According to scriptwriter Charles Randolph, the casting
had less to do with box-office revenue than some critics assumed. Randolphs script pointedly deals with a white translator:
I chose a white African because I felt thats a story that really hasnt been
told...I think weve historically dismissed white Africans as racists, and I
wanted to portray someone who loved her country, felt an intimate connection to it, but didnt happen to be black.33

How is the world to understand white (South? Southern?) Africans after


independence and the disillusionment with African governments? While
The Constant Gardener and Blood Diamond make use of morally ambivalent characters, The Interpreter sets up a dichotomy: the bad white African

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

23

is played by the villainous more-or-less Afrikaner head of Zuwanies security service (Jesper Christensen); the good white African (English, with
British mother) by Kidman. White English-speaking Africans have
merged, it seems, into the Australian column with the same kind of access
rights to the U.S. In addition, on one level the title also bestows a kind of
legitimacy upon white colonists, who are in a position, it is suggested, to
interpret for the West.
When Sean Penn, who plays the Secret Service agent, is brought in
after Kidman reports she has heard of a planned assassination against Zuwanie, he suspects her and asks what she felt about Zuwanie. Disappointment, she answers. Its a lovers word, he retorts. This seems a central
claim from Pollack and liberal westerners generally. Kidmans character,
on behalf of Pollack and a liberal audience, one must assume, accuses Zuwanie of not living up to his own revolutionary-humanist claims. When
she eventually confronts him, she forces him to read aloud a passage from
his autobiography to make him face his betrayal of his (and her) own ideals. The accusation against Zuwanie is that he has proved the bigots and
racists right. Liberals, logically, are more betrayed by the failures of black
Africa than conservatives or racists are.
In spite of Randolphs attempt to dramatize this, the centrality of the
white character was also the movies most criticized flaw. That a white
woman, one reviewer noted, no matter how conflicted and compelling,
bears the visible burden of this violent history obscures the high costs for
black Africans.34
Interestingly, reviewers have been less critical of the films indulgence
in decontextualized images of African mayhem. In addition to its fictional
status, Matobo is afflicted with just about every African horror: Zuwanie is
the typical ex-revolutionary hero who has become corrupted with power
(recalling many states, including Zimbabwe), his would-be assassin has
AIDS (a disease strongly associated with its African origin),35 Silvias
brother and former lover are shot by child soldiers (recalling Sierra Leone
and Liberia), the protestors outside the UN buildings call for the end to
genocide (recalling Rwanda), and we also learn that landmines killed the
heroines parents (recalling Angola).
Matobos fictional history can be seen as an attempt at what Georg
Lukcs called typicalitya narrative tool enabling filmmakers to harness a larger political significance for their films.36 Typicality is defined by
Lukcs as
the convergence and intersections of all...the most important social, political,
moral and spiritual contradictions of our time...Through the creation of a type

24

black camera 2 :1

and the discovery of typical characters and typical situations, the most significant directions of social development obtain adequate artistic expression.37

Pollack appears to critique the failures of African states generally. By typifying location in addition to character, however, the film tends to impede
rather than enhance the power of the message. Reviewers referred to Matobo as a smokescreen38 and noted, You cant help but feeling a bunch of
white people are making up a lot of stuff about Africa.39 The films concatenation of western anxieties about the continent is such that Silvias decision to return to Matobo at the end of the film hardly seems plausible; too
dismal a view of Africas future is entrenched in the viewers mind.
Aligning the film more closely with the circumstances of a particular
country at a particular time (by, for instance, removing the child soldiers
and landmine elements) may have circumvented some of the complaints
about the films indiscriminate cut-and-paste approach. Matobo, even if
fictional, cannot stand in for a continent of some forty-six countries. This
points to another weakness of Afropessimism: in its wish for a total explanation of the continent it generalizes about its problems.

White Sacrifice in Blood Diamond


Edward Zwicks Blood Diamond (2006), the most commercially successful
of the films, makes more of an effort to deal with the specifics of Sierra
Leone and has been praised for its depiction of child soldiers. The leading
figure, Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), is a former South African mercenary of Rhodesian descent. Now a diamond smuggler, he seems heartless
and racist, though the film redeems him consistently and he ends up as the
sacrificial westerner. Had one imagined, twenty or even ten years ago, that
a major Hollywood star would play a white racist mercenary in Africa as a
sympathetic figureand get an Academy Award nomination for itone
would surely have attracted ridicule, and DiCaprios character is testimony
to the changed reactions to Africa.
Set during Sierra Leones civil war, the film takes its inspiration from
the resource curse hypothesis, and Zwick worked with Sierra Leonean
documentary filmmaker Sorious Samura, whose own take on the situation
fed directly into the film. In the documentary Blood on the Stone (2007)
when Samura is asked whether diamonds are a curse to Sierra Leone, he
replies that diamonds, which should have made Sierra Leone a country fit
to compete with other western countries, has us all killing, raping and
maiming each other. In the film, the point is clarified for the audience
when an elderly man in a ravaged village tells Vandy that he dreads what

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

25

would happen if oil were discovered in Sierra Leone. The narrative goes on
to explore the situation in two ways. Internally, the politics of the country
are reduced to a naked struggle for power and control of diamond mining,
while externally, first-world consumerism (what Archer calls bling bling)
is linked to African civil war (bling blang). In singling out diamond
company Van der Kaap (understood by most audiences as De Beers) as the
major enemy, the film again exemplifies suspicion, typical of Hollywood
and liberal Afropessimism, of multinational corporations. This wish to
blame what is still seen as a white South African corporation leads to one
of the major historical distortions of the film. In its eagerness to implicate
the West, it fails to even mention the actions of Liberias Charles Taylor,
arguably the most brutal and disruptive force in the war.
Before the film was released, the conflict between the filmmakers and
the diamond industry hit the news, when De Beers and the World Diamond Industry allegedly requested that the filmmakers add a disclaimer
stating that events in the film are fictional and belong to the past.40 When
the filmmakers refused, the industry embarked upon a damage control
campaign to counter the anticipated negative press. The furor was heightened when the Kalahari Bushmen of Botswana entered the fray, publishing
a full-page advertisement in Variety, addressed to DiCaprio: Friends have
told us that you are in a film Blood Diamond, which shows how badly diamonds can hurt. We know this. When we were chased off our land, officials told us it was because of the diamonds. Please help us, Sir.41
The link between celebrity and commentary on Africa is particularly
relevant to film; it is often through celebrity action and filmic releases that
events on the continent become newsworthy. Julie Hollar points out that
after the opening of Blood Diamond, Sierra Leone was mentioned eleven
times on the news inserts of the major news networks (ABC, CBS, and
NBC), whereas the role of diamonds in the conflict was mentioned a scant
twenty-six times during the entire duration of the civil war.42 Numerous
critics went on to say that after viewing the film they will never look at a
diamond in the same way. To the filmmakers, such responses no doubt
served as a measure of Blood Diamonds success.
But another reaction, which must have taken the wind out of their
sails, came from an unlikely source: former South African president Nelson Mandela, who, as part of the De Beers campaign, wrote to Zwick himself, expressing concern over the films potential effect on the diamond
industry (and Africa) as a whole:
It would be deeply regrettable if the making of the film inadvertently obscured the truth, and, as a result, led the world to believe that an appropriate
response might be to cease buying mined diamonds from Africa...We hope

26

black camera 2 :1

that the desire to tell a gripping and important real-life historical story will
not result in the destabilisation of African diamond-producing countries,
and ultimately their peoples.43

Mandelas reaction points to the precariousness of Africas dependent position in the economic sphere. The tussle for global representation characterized much of the debate preceding the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South
Africa, for instance, and critics have for many years suggested that negative
reporting, especially on the threat of terrorism and crime, impacts hugely
on tourist industries,44 exchange rates, and economic growth across the
continent. Narrative film is an extremely powerful force in this respect.
Mandelas prediction was accurate: like the other films, Blood Diamond does obscure historical truths, decontextualizing events in its endeavor to bring the Sierra Leonean civil war to audiences. The concluding
credits, which do acknowledge that the conflicted diamond situation has
improved and that Sierra Leone is at peace, go on to state that there are still
200,000 child soldiers in Africa. This conflates past and present events in a
way that leaves viewers with an impression of Sierra Leone and indeed Africa, not as a region whose problems can be solved through more carefully
monitored economic arrangements, but as a place of little hope.
In addition, Archers figure becomes a way for Americans to articulate
and hear his cynical TIA (This is Africa) view that the continent is beyond good and evil, beyond aid, beyond repair and, probably, to feel some
sympathy for those caught in it. In a pithy exchange, he sums up the prevailing view of Africa:
Danny Archer: Peace Corps types only stay around long enough to realize
theyre not helping anyone. The government only wants to stay in power until
theyve stolen enough to go into exile somewhere else. And the rebels...theyre not sure they want to take over, otherwise theyd have to govern
this mess, but TIA, right Med?
Med: TIA.
Maddy Bowen: Whats TIA?
Danny Archer: This is Africa.

The Afropessimist TIA mantraa sardonic response to African apathy


and brutalityrings especially true with audiences, and the abbreviation has
become part of popular discourse in blogs and Web sites dealing with African
issues. The problem, as with the Matobo fictionalization, is that once again
Africas problems are not seen discretely, as challenges with particular causes,
even if Blood Diamond invokes actual history and attempts to steer away from
totalizing by locating the country on a map of Africa in the opening sequence.

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

27

Indeed, events are not invented in any way: the brutality conveyed in the
film was well recorded by journalists, and, though much of the film was shot
on location in South Africa and Maputo rather than in Sierra Leone, the
filmmakers appear to be more concerned with realism than earlier directors.
There were child soldiers (an estimated 23,000) with horrifying names like
Captain Cut Hand;45 the future is in your hands was indeed the government election slogan, cruelly subverted by the Revolutionary United Front
(RUF) in its campaign of amputation; the short- or long-sleeve query prior
to amputation, as wild as it may seem, is based on fact; and even minor details, such as the RUFs donning of wigs, are accurate.
And yet, something about Blood Diamond still seems off-kilter. It is
mainly the sense that too much effort is put into portraying authenticity (a
kind of morbid interest in how things happened), and not enough screen
time is devoted to explaining why they may have happened. The effect of
this approach, as with The Constant Gardener, is to eternalize Africas
problems; with no explanation as to why they exist, it is difficult for audiences to imagine their resolution.
The lack of context is nowhere more obvious than in the famous Siege
of Freetown scene, to which much attention was paid during filmmaking,
with witnesses being called in to help recreate authenticating details in a
supposed homage to victims. In the DVD interview, Zwick claimed he
wanted to include the siege because he didnt want the film to focus only on
Archer and Vandy; it is an attempt, then, to portray the larger picture of
the suffering of Sierra Leonean people. But like the horseback raid scene in
The Constant Gardener, the lack of context compromises this intention.
Maddys this place is about to explode, coupled with radio reports announcing the approaching RUF, are all we get by way of contextualization,
with no mention of Johnny Koromas removal from power.46 In spite of
Zwicks objective, the scene serves only to create a hostile urban jungle in
which Archer can display his bravado, thereby winning Vandy over. Numerous reviewers note this failure, seeing not just African history but also
Vandy as plot devices in another white mans redemption.47
Blood Diamond is probably strongest in its portrayal of the brutalization
of child soldiers, and critics have congratulated it for the scenes in which Dia
is indoctrinated into the RUF as these attempt to explain the processes that
lead to what would otherwise appear as senseless violence.48 Still, even here, it
misses the point. As Kapuciskis writing on the phenomenon shows, although abduction as a means of recruitment is undoubtedly a problem, more
frequently, orphaned children, or vulnerable children displaced by civil war,
poverty, and migrant labor are easily drawn in. Weapons, he points out,
are not only for waging war, but are a means of survival.49 Similarly, the
African minister in Robert Kaplans famous 1994 essay, The Coming Anar-

28

black camera 2 :1

chy, interprets Sierra Leonean brutality as the revenge of the poor, pointing
to a corrugated-iron shack and stating, The boys who took power in Sierra
Leone come from houses like this. In the film, the images of poverty and
squalor, though abundant, are limited to unknown subjects, whose discomfort we witness only in highly aestheticized shots, which do not capture the
real hardships, and boredom, of impoverishment.
The scenes also present us with an Americanized version of Africa: the
nuclear monogamous family replaces the extended African family; Dias indoctrination is played out as a kind of Oedipal rebellion (emphasized through
the RUFs consistent connection with gangster rap, the music associated with
misguided American youth); and the idealized image of a transplanted small
American town takes the place of an African dynamic.
Dias post-traumatic stress syndrome is also effortlessly resolved
through his reintegration into the nuclear family. The family values that
foster his individual salvation and the familys apparent emigration to
London also skirt the issue of community reintegration, one of the most
difficult aspects facing former child soldiers as indicated in the interview
with a former child soldier in the 2007 Samura special features interview
that accompanies the DVD.
In this way, the narrative dnouement downplays the harsh African reality that the rest of the film spends so much time setting upfor example, in
the depiction of the streaming mass of refugees. Taking an African fisherman out of the chaos, reuniting him with every single member of his family,
limbs intact, and ushering him onto the global stage where his comments
help to bring about the Kimberley Accord underplays the hardships facing a
society divided and brutalized by civil war. Furthermore, having an Americanized African play the part suggests that while Archer might have died
and had his blood blend with the African soil, the black hero and his son will
find their future out of Africa. As with The Interpreter, the films projection of
the continents future is too bleak for audiences to contemplate his return. In
the end, the film imagines the West doing two things: pressuring multinationals or offering a lifeboat (via immigration) to a select few. It remains unable to imagine or investigate a happy thriving African community, or go
into the post-traumatic recovery of a society in chaos.

Diluting Social Judgement in The Last King of Scotland


Another film at pains to implicate the West in Africas failures is Kevin
Macdonalds adaptation of Giles Fodens novel The Last King of Scotland.
In his directors comment on the film, Macdonald points out that the British satirical magazine Private Eye had published a spoof column purport-

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

29

edly by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He could have added that Punch had
done the same and that Alan Coren, the author of the columns, in fact produced two collections of them. Macdonald went on to say that he wanted
the film to avoid the condescending prejudice of pidgin English and the
racist portrayals of the tabloid press of the 1970s. The Last King of Scotland
thus raises the question of what differences emerge between the original
reactions to Amin and the fictional version some thirty years on, providing
an interesting example of how twenty-first-century film reappraises and
tries to understand the travails of the African state.
The first point about the film is that unlike earlier filmic representations such as The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981) it does not depict the British (English or Scots) as heroic figures. Macdonalds objectiveto portray
Amin as something of a Frankensteins monster,50 the Wests disastrous
creationeven won the filmmakers the support of Ugandan president
Yoweri Museveni.51 Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), the central
white focalizer in the film, is a shallow hedonist who blunders into events,
puts himself and Amins wife Kay (Kerry Washington) in danger, and is
saved only by the selflessness of one of the few good figures in the film: the
Ugandan doctor, Junju (David Oyelowo). Amins words to Garrigan at the
end of the film ring true and are all the more chilling because they come
from Amin:
Did you think this was all a game? I will go to Africa, and I will play the
white man with the natives! Is that what you thought? We are not a game,
Nicholas. We are real. This room, here; it is real. I think your death will be the
first real thing that has happened to you.

Nigel Stone (Simon McBurney), the local British official representative, also
illustrates the mistaken perception of Africa as a game. He moves from
seeing Amin as a solid local strongman to use against the left-leaning Obote
to wanting to assassinate him. But the central figures representing European morality and intelligence are the British couple, Dr. and Mrs. Merrit,
who selflessly run a mission hospital, and, against Garrigans hedonism
and Stones meddling, again set up the dichotomy between good and bad
colonizers. Garrigan tries to seduce the wife, but she remains loyal to her
husband and acts as a moral center.
What then of Amin? What is important here is that the film moves
precisely to give Forest Whitaker enough room to define his character
without either damning commentary or directorial judgement from outside. What we have, in other words, is the psychologizing of Amin; he can
when it suits him present himself as the poor boy made good, the antiapartheid crusader, the jovial joker, or one of the people. The film hesitates,

30

black camera 2 :1

until the very end, to give any kind of judgement that would alienate the
audience. When Nigel Stone presents Garrigan with evidence of Amins
brutality, there is no mention of the claims that Amin carried out many of
the assassinations personally. In addition, the attack on Amins life serves
to justify some of his paranoia about his position.
The film, rather like Alan Corens Punch columns, omits some of the
more sinister elements of Amin to build him up as figure of energetic, positive, anticolonial energy. Coren stopped doing the columns when the reality of the massacres became clear, but the film has to find another way of
letting Amin go on defining himself. The way it does this is astute. Garrigan, by now fully aware of Amins murderous power and that he is likely to
be a target, given his affair with Kay, suggests that Amin hold a press conference for critical western journalists. The conference gives Amin the
chance to charm, bully, and cajole the assembled journalists, returning
him to his earlier status as a comic or rogue figure, but the film omits any
of the shibboleths: the praise for Hitler or Stalin or jokes about human flesh
tasting too salty.
There are traces of Robert Mugabe in this scene. Amin ridiculously
suggests that Britain misrepresents him because they hate him and are
jealous of him, recalling Mugabes frequent anti-Blair rants. The similarity
is no accident; Macdonald singles out Mugabe as a modern African leader
with links to Amin.
Both started out as admired leaders...Both were seen as freedom fighters.
Both then started to use racial politics as a populist tool. Both have almost wilfully destroyed their countys economies. Both have used violence indiscriminately to achieve their political goals. Both have suffered from paranoia.52

In the press conference scene, Macdonald hints at the current impatience


with African leaders invocation of the Wests agenda on the continent as
an explanation for Afropessimism and bad press.
What the film eventually does, then, is to make space for Whitaker to
perform, to allow us to admire an actor moving out of type, working on
Amin as psychological study, but one that also comments on the present.
What the film doesnt do is show us how Amin stayed in power: the strong
tribal basis for the reaction to Obote, the use of informers, what Amins
long army service had taught him. We dont even really look at why he
made the decision to expel the Asians and what that meant for the country.
We see a lot of hard-eyed soldiers and ready rifles, fearful ministers standing around, and the jealousy of court life, but that is all.
The scene in which Amins brutality is finally revealed is strangely
contradictory, on the one hand illuminating the Wests mistaken percep-

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

31

tion of Africa and on the other regressing into a stereotype of atavistic brutality. After delivering his surprisingly apt analysis of Garrigans (and by
implication the Wests) antics in Africa, Amin explains his punishment
tactics in tribal terms: In my village, when you steal the wife of a dead
man, they take you to a tree and they hang you by your skin. Each time you
scream, the evil comes out of you. Sometimes it can take three days for
your evil to come out.
Garrigan refuses Amins wish to punish and purge him of his sin as a
father would punish a wayward child, reversing the father-to-son dynamic
and stating, Youre a child; thats what makes you so fucking scary. The
script moves into a deeply symbolic mode at this point and the loaded
words signify Garrigans refusal to scream out his guilt as well as the Wests
mistaken Afro-optimism in viewing Africa as capable of self-rule.
Garrigans escape from Uganda reverses the dynamic of Blood Diamond; the black Dr. Junju dies sacrificially so that Garrigan can tell the
world the truth about Amin. They will believe you, he tells Garrigan,
you are a white man. As Garrigan escapes with the non-Israeli hostages
at Entebbe, he is comforted and cradled by an older blonde woman, who
recalls Sarah, the doctors blonde wife he tried to seduce. Nicholas is returning to the good mother and, like Blood Diamond and The Interpreter,
the film surely suggests that Africa is no place for whitesor Asians.
Whitakers role, one then feels, with its heavy Method School emphasis, runs the risk of refusing to consider any social judgement of events.
Sarah, perhaps in an echo of the opening of Julius Caesar, warns Nicholas
that the crowd had sung for Obote just as they do for Amin, and throughout the film, most of the Ugandans are presented as approving of Amin.
Only the two highly educated doctorsone white and one blackserve as
moral opposition.
The final credits move us from the world of the thriller to brute historical
reality, explaining that Amin killed over 300,000 Ugandans. For some critics, the move comes too late in the film, as viewers with no prior knowledge
of Ugandan history will struggle to reconcile the death toll with what the
film has shown.53 The credits also point out (inaccurately) that all the Israeli
hostages but one would be liberated forty-eight hours later and that world
opinion was going to turn against Amin definitively. But even here there is
nothing about Amins political flirtation with Palestinian nationalism or his
support for the hijackers. Then the film shows some historic footage of Amin,
framing and enclosing the fictional portrayal with a brief mention of Amins
overthrow, exile in Saudi Arabia, and death.
In its stress on the military as a means of domination, on the white focalizer who has to tell the story of Africa, the big man syndrome, and on
the growth of an exclusive black nationalism, the film fits many of the ste-

32

black camera 2 :1

reotypes of Afropessimism and shows the ways in which new filmic portrayals try to differ from older forms of European racism. We can note
again, though, the films failure to analyze social power and circumstances
which led to and maintained Amins rule as well as the reduction of Garrigans interaction with Amin to a form of familial relationshipsomething
in which the film differs sharply from the novel.

Conclusion
The first crop of twenty-first-century films about Africa displays a fresh
earnestness in their approach to the continent and tries hard (though not
always successfully) to transcend the stereotypes of earlier films. This is
particularly evident in the attention paid to realist detail, which in turn
influenced the growth of the mass media. What transpires is a new set of
stereotypes and commonalitiesthe emblematic child soldier, the corrupt
official, the meddling multinational, and the sacrificial white do-gooder
which are intriguing in showing the tension in western thinking about
contemporary Africa. These include seemingly contradictory elements: the
appreciation of the Wests complicity in Africas problems is, for instance,
coupled with impatience over the continued failures of the independent
African state, particularly kleptocracy and corruption; the approach to African violence and poverty is visually and realistically detailed but lacks
explanatory power; and critiques of the lingering effects of colonialism are
tempered by a more sympathetic approach to the white colonizer.
In film, the attempts to grapple with Africa also suffer from the limitations of genre and the pressures of the industry, resulting in an Afropessimistic outlook that at the same time fails to portray the real challenges
facing the continent. Here, we can note several weaknesses: an inability to
investigate the social and structural elements of African history, which
ends up eternalizing problems; the overreliance on white focalizers and
narrators; the need for optimistic or upbeat endings (often located out of
Africa); a tendency to generalize from particular cases to continental
trends; and the bending of solutions into western individualistic and familial modes. Yet, all of these can be seen as downplaying rather than exaggerating the real difficulties that African societies face, suggesting that
narrative film still has some way to go before the quality of its commentary
on Africa matches its power.

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

33

Notes

1. Peter Davis, In Darkest Hollywood: Exploring the Jungles of Cinemas South Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1996); K.M. Cameron, Africa on Film: Beyond
Black and White (New York: Continuum, 1994); Melissa Thackway, Africa Shoots
Back: Alternative Perspectives in Sub-Saharan Francophone African Film (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003).

2. Adebayo Olukoshi, State, Conflict, and Democracy in Africa: The Complex
Process of Renewal, in State, Conflict, and Democracy in Africa, ed. Richard Joseph
(Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999), 451.

3. The resource curse hypothesis refers to the theory that instead of benefiting
economically from minerals resource-rich countries experience slower economic
growth and increased political instability because of a constant struggle to access mineral rights and gain control of the state.

4. Thackway, Africa Shoots Back, 36.

5. The Continents Celluloid Moment: Africa on Film, Economist 382, no. 8514
(February 3, 2007): 50; Dave Calhoun, African Cinema: White Guides, Black Pain,
Sight and Sound 17, no. 2 (February 2007): 3235.

6. Ibid., 35

7. Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism,
and the Genocide in Rwanda (London: James Currey, 2001), xi.

8. Rory Carroll, US Chose To Ignore Rwandan Genocide, The Guardian, March
31, 2004, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/mar/31/usa.rwanda (accessed June
2, 2008).

9. Mohamed Adhikari, Hotel Rwanda: Too Much Heroism, Too Little History
Or Horror? in Black and White in Colour: African History on Screen, ed. Vivien Bickford-Smith and Richard Mendelsohn (Oxford: James Currey, 2007), 280.
10. Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers; Ryszard Kapuciski, The Shadow of
the Sun: My African Life (London: Penguin Books, 2002).
11. See Carroll, US Chose To Ignore Rwandan Genocide.
12. Michael Dorland, PGParental Guidance Or Portrayal of Genocide: The
Comparative Depiction of Mass Murder in Contemporary Cinema, in The Media and
the Rwandan Genocide, ed. Allan Thompson (London: Pluto Press, 2007), 427.
13. Eric L. Santner, Stranded Objects: Mourning, Memory and Film in Postwar
Germany (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990).
14. Adhikari, Hotel Rwanda: Too Much Heroism, Too Little HistoryOr Horror? 290.
15. Cited in James Cowan, Movie Sparks Public Feud, National Post, April 25,
2008, http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=472493 (accessed June 6,
2008).
16. Vivien Bickford-Smith, Rosenstone on Film, Rosenstone on History: An African Perspective, Rethinking History 11, no. 4 (December 2007): 539; see also Luke
Fletcher Hotel Rwandas Moral Compass, Screen Education 39 (2005): 21.
17. Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers, xii.
18. Kenneth Harrow, Un Train Peut En Cacher un Autre: Narrating the Rwandan genocide and Hotel Rwanda, Research in African Literatures 36, no. 4 (2005):
223232.

34

black camera 2 :1

19. Morris Dickstein, The Politics of the Thriller: On Munich and Moral
Ambiguity,Dissent 53, no. 2 (Spring 2006): 8992.
20. The Continents Celluloid Moment; Africa on Film.
21. The film does hint at this when Justin queries whether the Kenyans even know
that they are testing new drugs.
22. Sonia Shah, The Constant Gardener: What the Movie Missed, The Nation,
August 30, 2005, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050912/shah (accessed July 6,
2008).
23. Focus Features production notes, 2005, http://www.buzzer.nl/content/images/PathePAC /persmap.pdf (accessed July 15, 2008); my italics.
24. See Ed Leibowitz, The Genocide and the Box Office, New York Times, April
10, 2005, http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/movies/10leib.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
(accessed May29, 2008).
25. John Lyttle, Victorian Virtues: Black-and-White Morality Takes on an Unexpected Colour: The Constant Gardener, New Statesmen, November 14, 2005, 46.
26. Ty Burr, Gardener Settles for Familiar Ground, The Boston Globe, August
31, 2005, http://www.boston.com/movies/display?display=movie&id=7872 (accessed
July 1, 2008).
27. See the Focus Features press kit (2005) and David Jays, Fernando Meirelles:
The Reluctant Globe-Trotter, Sight and Sound 15, no. 12 (2005): 10.
28. Ian Glenn, Sex, Race and Casting in South African Cinema in Marginal
Lives and Painful Pasts: South African Cinema After Apartheid, ed. Martin Botha
(Cape Town: Genugtig Publishers, 2007).
29. The use of fictional locations in Africa, South America, and Asia was particularly popular in the 1970s and 1980s and has a long filmic and literary history. (Evelyn
Waughs Azania in Black Mischief is probably the best-known example.) Zembala in
The Wild Geese (1978) and Zangaro in the film version of Frederick Forsyths The Dogs
of War (1980) are obvious filmic examples. The trend appears to be enjoying a revival
with the introduction of Nambutu in Casino Royale (2006) and the film version of the
popular TV series 24, Redemption (2008), which features the fictional African country
of Sangala.
30. David Blair, Harare Loses the Plot over Kidman Film, The Telegraph, September 6, 2005, http://www.smh.com.au/news/film/harare-loses-the-plot-over-kidman-film/2005/09/05/1125772458990.html (accessed June 1, 2008).
31. Cited in Caesar Zvayi, US Takes Anti-Zim Drive to Hollywood, The Herald,
September 3, 2005, http://www.zwnews.com/print.cfm?ArticleID=12693 (accessed
June 3, 2008).
32. David Blair, Harare Loses the Plot over Kidman Film.
33. Cited in Steve Daly, Out of Africa: The Director of The Interpreter Talks about
the Troubles Getting the Film Made and Shooting at the UN, Entertainment Weekly,
no. 816 (April 22, 2005), http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,1049664_4,00.html (accessed June 4, 2008).
34. Cynthia Fuchs, Not Telling: Review of The Interpreter, PopMatters, April 22,
2005, http://www.popmatters.com/film/reviews/i/interpreter-2005.shtml (accessed
June 4, 2008).
35. This may also be a kind of homage to the novel which inspired the film. Suzanne Glasss plot revolves not around the assassination of an African despot, but
around the hushed-up discovery and delayed release of an HIV vaccine.

Mar t ha Evans and Ian Glenn/TIAThis is Africa

35

36. Ian Buchanan and Adrian Parr, Deleuze and the Contemporary World (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2006), 187.
37. Cited in Mike Wayne, Political Film: The Dialectics of Third Cinema (London:
Pluto Press, 2001).
38. Dave Calhoun, African Cinema: White Guides, Black Pain, 33.
39. Don Thompson, Film and Fiction Fusion: Review of The Interpreter, Solpix
Reviews (2005), http://www.webdelsol.com/SolPix/sp-reviews47.htm (accessed June 4,
2008).
40. Elizabeth Snead, Blood Diamonds PR War: The Gem Trade, Fearing Sales Wont
Sparkle, Campaigns Against the Film, The Envelope, Los Angeles Times, October 10,
2006, http://theenvelope.latimes.com/movies/env-et-diamonds10oct10,0,1785785 (accessed June 5, 2008).
41. Ibid.
42. Julie Hollar, Bono, I Presume? Covering Africa through Celebrities, Extra!
(May/June 2007).
43. Cited in Matthew Hennessey, Diamond Movie Unearths Rock-Hard Ethical
Dilemmas, Policy Innovations, Carnegie Council, December 15, 2006, http://www
.policyinnovations.org/ideas/briefings/data/blood_diamond (accessed June 4, 2008).
44. For example, in 2003, when several western countries warned their citizens
not to travel to Kenya because of potential terrorist attacks, tourism officials estimated
that the country lost at least $1 million a day. See Stefan Lovgren, Tourism Taking
Toll on Kenyas Tourism Industry, National Geographic News, June 17, 2003, http://
news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0617_030617_kenyatourism.html (accessed July 25, 2008).
45. Jacques Pauw, Dances with Devils: A Journalists Search for Truth (Cape Town:
Zebra Press, 2006), 199.
46. The famous Siege of Freetown began when the RUF-supported Johnny Paul
Koroma, who had taken power from Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, was toppled by the Sierra
Leone Army, assisted by Nigerian-led Economic Community of West African States
Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) troops. Almost a year after Kabbah was returned to
office, the RUF attacked the city, but was forced to retreat after several weeks.
47. Peter Travers, Review of Blood Diamond, Rolling Stone, December 8, 2006,
http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/10681570/review/12770387/1016_
blood_diamond (accessed June 5, 2008); see also Joe Queenan, A Whiter Shade of
Guile, The Guardian, January 5, 2007, 3.
48. Bickford-Smith, Rosenstone on Film, Rosenstone on History, 539.
49. Kapuciski, The Shadow of the Sun, 148.
50. Cited in Christina Hamlett, Through a Lens Darkly: From Real to Reel
with The Last King of Scotland, Writers Journal, May/June 2007, 10.
51. C. Timberg, In Uganda, Last King of Scotland Generates Blend of Pride and
Pain: Crowds Flock to Oscar-Honored Film about Idi Amin, Washington Post Foreign
Service, February 27, 2007, 1.
52. Cited in Hamlett, Through a Lens Darkly, 10.
53. Eryan Gilbey, A String of Mangled Opportunities: Review of The Last King of
Scotland, New Statesmen, January 15, 2007, 43.

Related Interests