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Films About African Americans In Africa (Things That Make You Go Hmm...)

by Tambay A. Obenson
March 7, 2012 10:41 AM
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The Black Folk Don't... web series we featured here on S&A got me thinking... one of the episodes was titled Black Folk Don't Travel; watch it below first, and continue reading underneath.

So... it got me thinking about the myriad of films we've covered here on S&A over the last few years that feature, most often, a Caucasian man or woman (usually American or from continental Europe) in an African country; We've seen quite a number of films about white Americans or white Europeans either already living in Africa, or visiting some African country, in search of something or someone - whether it's salvation, redemption, inspiration, vacation, themselves, their spouses, children, friends, their dogs, cats, apes, whatever; and it's rare that they're villains, nor in positions of inferiority.

Also, those that are historically based usually involve white *settlers* (or remnants of colonialism) who come to see themselves as native to the land that their ancestors once occupied. 

And in thinking further about this, I realized that I couldn't come up with many titles of fictional narrative feature films that centered on stories about African Americans in Africa; it's not like black Americans don't travel right? Or more specifically, it's not like black Americans don't travel to/visit/live/work in African countries right? I know more than a few. 

Their reality just isn't reflected on our screens, big and small; as is the case for much of the so-called black experience, so nothing terribly shocking. But just making an observation. I'm speaking in the spirit of what we call Pan Africanism. 

If Hollywood movies are any indication, one would think that white people were the only "race" of people who traveled internationally.

One recent example that immediately comes to mind is Sex And The City 2, in which the characters spent much of the movie in Abu Dhabi, and, by most accounts (I haven't seen the film), do some purportedly ignorant, cringe-worthy things that insult the emirate and its people.

So there I was wondering... it'd be refreshing to see more films about African Americans outside the USA, specifically in Africa (although let's face it, it'll be just as refreshing to see a wider variety of films about African Americans in America). I couldn't think of many films with that as a basis for the story.

Does Shaft In Africa (photo above) count? Haile Gerima's Sankofa is another. And, to be clear, I don't mean films that star African Americans playing Africans (there are certainly numerous examples of those); nor am I including documentaries. I'm thinking of narrative fiction feature films with stories centered on black Americans either visiting a country (or several countries) in Africa for whatever reason, or who are already living in an African country.

Can you name any? Maybe I'm suffering from some form of temporary amnesia, and just can't remember any films that fit the criteria.

Discussions abound about unifying the Diaspora; it's not quite happening in real life from where I'm standing; but at least, in the fantasy, make-believe world of the cinema, we can pretend, or show what could (or could not) be :).

Black folks travel don't they?

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More: Things That Make You Go Hmm...

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  • THE PRESENCE | March 30, 2012 12:56 PMReply

    Kin (2000) starring Isaiah Washington about an African American laywer living in a small village in Namibia, who falls in love with a white South African woman, as he deals with local townsfolk, elephant poachers and the woman's obsessive brother.

  • THE PRESENCE | March 30, 2012 12:55 PMReply

    Kin (2000) starring Isaiah Washington about an African American laywer living in a small village in Namibia, who falls in love with a white South African woman, as he deals with local townsfolk, elephant poachers and the woman's obsessive brother.

  • Sportsbruh | March 13, 2012 1:52 AMReply

    HBO did a series with Jill Scott called the #1 ladies Detective Agency.

    filmed in southern Africa and nambia

  • jb | March 30, 2012 12:11 PM

    but she stars as a african (batswana) woman, which tambay said specifically doesn't count in what he's speaking to

  • DGB360 | March 12, 2012 7:14 PMReply

    The only two categories of Black travelers are college students and educated grown folk. Black people are afraid to be out of there element. Europe is out, to hard to handle the language. All of the other continents, black folk don't want to embrace these unfamiliar cultures. I'm a world traveler, I hear this all the time from black folk. We as a people need to branch out, like the student who went to Nepal. My daughter lives in Austraila. Branch out black people learn something new. naaaww man that cost to much. Ninja rather by BEATS HEADPHONES and an IPAD. Ninja just spent over a thousand dollars....Me...? I'm on the beach in BAHIA Brazil.

  • Donella | March 9, 2012 3:04 PMReply

    Orlando Bloom in Primeval (Gustave). It's about a man-eating crocodile.

  • Donella | March 10, 2012 3:15 PM

    Oops! Orlando Jones

  • Chuck | March 8, 2012 3:23 AMReply

    I'm thinking...
    Not a feature film but a documentary - BLACKS WITHOUT BORDERS, about Black Americans living in South Africa.

    Other cose to mind is the HBO show - THE #1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY with Jill Scott. The Jill and the other actors were playing characters in Mozambique but one episode had a American Black women in search for her son that moved there.

    still thinking...

  • Lonny | March 7, 2012 7:57 PMReply

    I don't have a "good" example, but .... Mo'Nique's film "Phat Girlz" included her character going to Africa in the end after meeting an African man in Florida and finding out that he did not hold the European standards of beauty popularized in America. The writer/director was an African woman. It was a thinly plotted film with good intentions. Pretty uneven
    ....and the ones others have said

  • Tamara | March 7, 2012 4:22 PMReply

    "I'm thinking of narrative fiction feature films with stories centered on black Americans either visiting a country (or several countries) in Africa for whatever reason, or who are already living in an African country." --- ALI (2001), IN MY COUNTRY (2004), MR. BONES (2001)

  • Cyril | March 7, 2012 1:06 PMReply

    Naomie Harris in "Blood & Oil" does that count?

  • anon | March 9, 2012 11:35 AM

    shes british there are plenty of examples of black brits going to africa this is about aa's.

  • Donella | March 7, 2012 12:16 PMReply

    Ice Cube in Dangerous Ground?

  • nessaj | March 7, 2012 11:42 AMReply

    There's a French film called Beyond the Ocean/Apres l'ocean, about a couple of guys from Ivory Coast working in various countries in Europe. They're more just trying to make money than travelling for leisure though. I think the director is white.

  • BONDGIRL | March 7, 2012 11:19 AMReply

    Wow, I have had this on my mind for a while, and I will be writing a screenplay on my vacation to Senegal and Morrocco as a teenager. I had a life-threatening car accident while there, as well as many other experiences that should make for an entertaining film.

  • Laura | March 7, 2012 11:17 AMReply

    I don't know the synopsis of the film, but what about Danny Glover in "Bamako" I know it is not a Hollywood film.

  • Jd | March 7, 2012 10:58 AMReply

    Good topic. Denzel was just running over tin roofs in South Africa with his white sidekick in Safe House. That count?

  • Brasi | March 7, 2012 10:52 AMReply

    The upcoming Ties that Bind, directed by Leila Djansi and starring Kimberley Elise.

  • Diarah N'Daw-Spech | March 9, 2012 5:45 PM

    Hi Tambay. Thanks for these remarks. You are right, there are not that many films with African-American stories based in Africa. Yet, there are a lot of opportunities. I am going to share one below. To all filmmakers out there, a number of African countries have incentives for co-productions. Here is information for one of them. Feel free to share and once your film is done, we'll be happy to feature it during the African Diaspora Film Festival and/or distribute it through ArtMattan Productions. In unity!

    Take advantage of South Africa`s huge untapped production incentives!


    You may have heard of it already that South Africa has implemented massive production funding incentives to bolster the film industry and create jobs and foreign investment through Co-Productions. These incentives are accessible to South African based companies via several government and non-government rebates, grants and equity loans. There are four main incentives applicable to features and documentary:

    The rebate by the Department of Trade and Industry(DTI) of up to 35% for local and co-productions and 15% for foreign productions. In both cases this applies to the expenditure spent in South Africa. The rebate can be obtained after production expenditure is completed or paid in milestones during production with the condition of a completion bond being in place (click here for more details via the DTI website) - last fiscal year the department only managed to spend approx. 1/3 of it's allocated budget for this rebate
    The Investment Development Corporation (IDC) has a mandate to invest in the film and documentary sector, although self funded and historically active in financing the mining and industrial sector, they have "healthy" budget for film investments and generally look at investing 100,000 Euro and up. They can put in up to 49% of the budget as per their policy restrictions and look to recoup, charge interest and take equity relative to their investment. They do not however attach personal or business assets and instead attach the risk to the film itself. (click here for more details via the IDC website)
    The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) invest in development, production and post, although their budgets are generally smaller, capping at 100,000 Euro for production and 60,000 Euro for development for features. They are also the custodians of the co-production treaties South Africa holds with the following countries: Germany, France, UK, Italy, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (click here for more details via the NFVF website)
    The Gauteng Fim Commission (GFC) is responsible for issuing permits in the Gauteng province, where Johannesburg is located, and also do invest soft funds into productions based in the Gauteng province, ranging in value depending on their exposure and various other factors like skills development, job creation etc.. (click here for more details via the GFC website)

    I am Pascal Schmitz, a South African born German producer based in Johannesburg and am looking for partners to help tap into these incentives via co-productions or distribution and sales. The biggest hurdle to utilising these huge incentives is distribution and access to the international markets, as the South African cinema, TV and DVD markets are just too small to sustain big budget indie features and documentaries. The IDC for example requires sales projections from a reputable international sales agent to mitigate their risk and that is often hard to get as a South African producer. I have been working very closely with all four organisations above over the last three years, through workshops and proposals; to improve their impact on the industry and get into the international market (see related article here)

    Ì have two films in development here at the market that I would like to discuss with any interested parties:

    "SHADY VALLEY" A Horror/Comedy with a budget of 1,000,000 Euro - Click here for website
    "BLOOD TOKOLOSHE" A horror film with a budget of 30,000 Euro already in pre-production - Click here for website

    I also have a quirky travel documentary that is a sequel to a completed title from 2010. - Click here for website

    I am also renowned in South Africa for my crowd funding campaigns and have presented on panels on the this subject. - Click here to see some examples


    Films for the future

    Pascal Schmitz
    AMARIAM Productions
    tel: +27 11 484 5220
    fax: +27 86 535 7334
    mobile: +27 82 506 8312
    USA No. 202-241-5481
    Skype ID: digitalethiopia

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