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Africa Misused, Yet Again, As Backdrop For Found-Footage Horror Film 'Safari'

by Emmanuel Akitobi
August 22, 2013 11:14 AM
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Contrary to what some filmmakers would like you to believe, life in Africa is not all wilderness, famine, war, disease, and hungry animals.  That's why I cringe whenever I hear of projects like director Darrell Roodt's found-footage South Africa-set film, Safari.

The tagline for Safari is "This Is Africa."  [Insert side-eye HERE]

As an African himself, who has done film and TV which better represent South African life specifically (Sarafina, Cry, The Beloved Country, Room 9), I'm surprised at Roodt for this one.

The main problem I have with this project is that it reinforces a perception that far too many people have of what Africa is-- a tourist attraction full of wild animals and natives who are all too eager to guide visitors through it.

Here's the synopsis I was able to find for Safari:

Safari is an American, found footage thriller film, set in South African wild, where animals and poachers rule the land. Two worlds collide when Mbali, a young Zulu girl, meets an American tourist group who have come to explore and go on safari in South Africa. Things take a wrong turn after the group enter uncharted hunting grounds where they are forced to face the untamed wild.

Really?  Again?  I know I've heard this before.

South Africa is a lively, beautiful, and diverse country full of many interesting African people.  Theirs are stories worth telling, too.  But this is the best they could do?

Even the trailer for Safari, which was shot in Johannesburg, is practically devoid of any Africans, besides some quick shots of African men smiling, looking terrified, and laid out, presumably having gotten their asses chewed up by some wild and mysterious African beast.

No word on when this Azari Media and Moonrise Pictures production will hit theaters; although I highly doubt that many S&A readers will be holding their breaths in anticipation of its release.

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  • Todd | September 30, 2013 4:38 AMReply

    I'm white, so I'll just come out and say it: I only wish some of those rich white arseholes that pay thousands of dollars to go on a decadent safari in Africa would get eaten by wild animals.

    I was also living in Brazil in 2006 when the horror movie "Turistas" came out. Same thing. Some rich white gringo backpackers, who are there just to do drugs and leave a mess on the beach, get all cut up. Cry me a river.

  • Vandenbergh | September 27, 2013 7:12 AMReply

    So, when you are living in RSA, then YOU should wake up and know better! Have you read the crime statistic lately ? Have you talked just for a moment with the anti poaching units in Kruger ? Stereotype ? Yes, this is what you are. Wake up Ostrich !

  • Sydney Levine | September 25, 2013 2:36 PMReply

    When I was a film buyer in the 80s I bought Darrell Roodt's early film The Stick from his long-time producer and distributor Anant Singh at Distant Horizon. As with the US Arthouse producers, e.g. Soderbergh's, Anant must alternate arthouse fare with more exploitative fare to make enough money to bankroll the smaller artier films. So I am not surprised to hear of this film you are decrying which may well earn more money than his truly loved films, like Winnie. Anant Singh also produced Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and that took him 25 years to get off the ground. "Cry the Beloved Country" produced by Anant and directed by Darrell took 15 years to make. So don't blame him for having to earn a living. I'm glad he knows how to survive. And i am glad Anant and he still care so much that they perservere to make the worthy films they do.

  • Emmanuel | September 30, 2013 6:59 AM

    Fine. Continue to support his art. He won't make a living off of me.

  • Michelle Materre | September 18, 2013 12:04 PMReply

    AND...isn't he the director of the new film WINNIE about Winnie Mandela?? He should KNOW better!!

  • Africiate! | September 7, 2013 6:04 PMReply

    I don't know why any African would want to want to make a movie that promotes the one-sided stereotype that is far from the truth about our lives. I can't tell you how many times people told me they wanted to go to Africa because of the animals or how I've been asked if there were big houses or roads (for that matter) in Africa. I am especially surprised by the title "This is Africa" as if he is revealing the way of life in Africa. The jungle image of Africa is already overdone, and this only continues to uphold the ignorance being portrayed about Africa. Trust me Africa is so much more interesting and diverse and it seeks true artists to tell its many stories. I know that is one of the reasons I choose filmmaking because I wanted to tell our own stories in the way I grew up knowing it. Enough of these same old stereotypical stories.

  • karl | September 5, 2013 7:12 PMReply

    The same old pattern of white supremacist Thinking about Africa and Black People in general, like Africa needs more degrading and dehumanizing stereotypes to catch Awareness (from who anyway?). Are you surprised? I think that some Africans should start doing movies about seemingly middle Africans doing "Safaris" in the nasty poor ghettos of east Europe where they will be hunt for their humans organs and sex trafficking and where racists will try to kill and eat them with bananas, then call it: White Safari :this is Europe! just make 10 movies like this and promote this kind of image and movies all over the world, especially in Africa, for a long time then we will see...
    I think these people should be exposed for who they are: Negrophobic white supremacists, but since they don´t walk with big white dresses and kkk logos they will try to deny it, but because racism is like a drug and they are addicted to it their actions will always betray them.

  • Simone | September 7, 2013 6:00 AM

    I too get super pissed at the coverage of my beloved Africa. So much I put pen to paper and just wrote a five page "21st Century" article on Ghana entitled: Contemporary Ghana...on the Rise. I'm an African American btw. I have read all the comments here. Valid, valid and more valid. However, would I be wrong to state, I like this trailer and look forward to people getting eaten on "Safari"...perhaps people will now reconsider leaving the animals alone in Africa?

  • Matthew Smith | September 2, 2013 4:39 AMReply

    I live in England and according to on screen representation we are all posh floppy haired idiots as portrayed by Hugh Grant and Rene Zellweger in Notting Hill and Bridgette Jones. Or our country is filled with Cockney Gangsters who will cut you up and feed you to pigs as seen in Lock, Stock and Snatch.
    People come to the UK and expect a giant Hogwarts Harry Potter experience. Is UK misused and misrepresented? Yes. Do we benefit from having a huge financial investment into the country from international crews shooting here? Yes. What I'm trying to say is the more films that get made in a country the more opportunities there are to develop talent, producers and crew in that country.

    Think about what films you are happy to accept because they don't represent you or what you know, it's make believe folks not documentary. If you don't like the concept create your own, get the funds and shoot your own film.

    It is disappointing to see lazy stereotypes of all residents of planet Earth misused on screen but still it persists.

    "South Africa is a lively, beautiful, and diverse country full of many interesting African people. Theirs are stories worth telling, too" I'm sure SA is everything you say but what exactly ARE the stories worth telling? Use that thought and start writing yourself.

    You seem to be an articulate, intelligent person I hope that you can produce something more worthy and engaging.

  • LL2 | September 21, 2013 9:52 AM

    The thing is, this filmmaker is African. He's clearly not writting from his own experience and rather catering to a stereotype. Lots of people do that, Western or not. Therefore having African filmmakers is not a guarantee that the issue will be resolved. Everyone has to be committed to authenticity in their writing and it never hurts to research the topic you are writing about.

  • Kayode | September 21, 2013 5:43 AM

    Complaining about how other people depict you wont change anything. People usually write from experience and the experience most western writers (including black writers from the west) have of Africa is what they have seen in films. Its time Africans started writing and filming their own story without trying to pander to western palates. African writers/filmmakers need to watch/listen to Chimanda Adichie's speech at TED - the danger of a single story, food for thought!

  • Lovie ELAMIN | August 28, 2013 6:54 PMReply

    Appreciating your comment in reference to films with "Africa" as a subject and how they tend to present such harsh scenarios of the "Continent" and its people. Compare this to daily news and film presenting stories of African Americans, particularly films in "previous times in history as well a some current features depicting "African Americans as criminals in most cases." I shudder to think "What will happen mentally to the "over-all general mainstream culture" when films depicting them as mostly "Serial "Killers and "Sexual Predators" become Main-Line Cinamas in America..

  • Emmanuel | August 27, 2013 9:33 AMReply

    For me, the main issue here is the tagline-- "This Is Africa". That statement could lead the less-informed to believe that this is all there is to the continent, and that's what makes this film (or, at least, its marketing-- trailer included) reckless.

  • Temi | August 24, 2013 2:26 PMReply

    I feel to film a wildlife documentary in england and call it The European wild and use the same bullshit racist notion that the west have forrever used on Africa

  • Saul | August 24, 2013 2:46 PM

    I suppose THE GREY was racist against Alaskans by your logic...

  • Susan | August 23, 2013 6:28 AMReply

    "Miles from civilization" indeed. Some people and their "romanticized" notions of Africa when it suits them. Because an area is preserved for use as a safari, which is essentially a large zoo without the animals being caged, that makes it "miles from civilization." This is just another "Africa seen through foreign Caucasian eyes" movie to further perpetuate the lies told about Africa in the West. A proverb states, "Till the lion tells its story, the tale will always glorify the hunter." Therefore the more black people tell their own stories, the more true African stories will be told instead of these exotic animal littered jungle garbage stories Caucasians continue to produce about Africa.

  • A to B | August 24, 2013 11:04 PM

    Wow. A personal attack in lieu of an actual thought. Surprise, surprise.

  • JaySmack | August 24, 2013 12:20 PM

    A To B is here.
    Cue the white supremacists in drag who troll websites looking to defend any and all bigoted nonsense. I so wish welfare reform could get passed so these mayonnaise-sandwich eating, Limbaugh-listening trolls could do something with their time other than pester people who matter.

  • A to B | August 24, 2013 12:32 AM

    No kidding. I mean with the massive urbanization of Africa in the last 50 years there are hardly even any animals left. Why would filmmakers choose such an illogical locale for a found footage film about tourists being mauled by wildlife? They should have filmed in Australia, but we all know how the Aborigines have built multiple cities to rival Paris, Moscow, and New York, so that's out of the question ...

  • James Madison | August 22, 2013 11:54 PMReply

    I agree with Emmanuel. It's always the same thing when dealing when the subject relates to Africa. A continent filled with dark skin people does not get any meaningful presence in the trailer and, I never got a feeling of them being valued.

    The side eye indeed.

  • Ummm | August 22, 2013 2:20 PMReply

    South Africans can be white, you know...

    A quick IMDB search reveals the majority of the cast is South African (both white and black).

  • UMMM | August 24, 2013 2:10 PM

    Ever been on a safari in Africa? If so, you'd notice that 95% of those who go on safari are white. Why act as though that's not a fact? What is the complaint when black actors are incorporated into a film like this one in an accurate way? Should films lie about reality to satisfy you?

    I'm astonished everyone seems to know so much about a movie they haven't seen.

  • JaySmack | August 24, 2013 12:26 PM

    Your dodge is patently absurd. The movie is in africa where white immigrants are only a tiny fragment of the overall population. And this movie is part of a pattern where no matter where on earth you are, Africa, an Indonesian tsunami or the far side of Mars the movie always has to star white people.
    then chumps like you come along and say, "Well that's all anyone wants to see."
    You are also the same chump who will complain that all the "American" roles are taken by British actors.

  • A to B | August 24, 2013 12:25 AM

    One of the better suspense/horror movies of my generation (se7en) didn't even list Kevin Spacey in the credits at the time of its release so that audiences wouldn't know who the villain was, adding to the aforementioned suspense to great success. If you have even heard of poker at any point in your life, you would understand the value of concealing your hand. Seriously, who wants to know the entire movie before seeing the movie?

  • Emmanuel | August 23, 2013 2:34 PM

    And you really believe the black African characters will play significant roles in the story? Did you see this mystery Zulu girl get any face time in the trailer?

  • UMMM | August 23, 2013 11:52 AM

    But your assertion was clearly that Africans are underrepresented, something that the cast list reveals to be inaccurate. The synopsis you referenced also seems to include a young Zulu girl.

  • Emmanuel | August 22, 2013 4:41 PM

    The film is about Americans who go to Africa for safari. I think it's safe to say that the folks we see in the trailer are supposed to be depicting those Americans, and not random white Africans. Read the synopsis.

  • No | August 22, 2013 11:46 AMReply

    What makes this "interesting" is that last week I attended a DC Filmmakers Meet-up that was about $50,000 micro-budget films and the easiest film to make in that category was the horror film, and one of the most popular of that genre was the "found footage" film. Safari fits the bill.

  • James | August 29, 2013 9:13 PM

    Oh my god. I've known that eradicating Black people from films where you'd expect to see Black people, and using them as props for the white protagonists is a successful business model for a while now. I just have to believe that there are other successful business models when it comes to films as well.

  • A to B | August 24, 2013 12:16 AM

    Oh my god. You've discovered the evil conspiracy of employing a successful business model!

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