Movie of the Day: Africa Addio


Africa Addio
Africa Addio

Africa Addio is a famed 1966 Italian documentary film about the end of the colonial era in Africa. The film was released under the names “Africa Blood and Guts” in the USA (which was only half of the entire film) and “Farewell Africa” in the UK. The film was shot over a period of three years by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, two Italian filmmakers who had gained fame (along with co-director Paolo Cavara) as the directors of Mondo Cane in 1962. This film ensured the viability of the so-called Mondo film genre, a cycle of “shockumentaries”- documentaries featuring sensational topics, which classifications arguably characterize “Africa Addio”. It is included in the “Mondo Cane Collection” currently being distributed by Blue Underground.
The film contains evidence of cynical treatment of humanity to itself, as seen during the first wave of what became endemic African revolutions. The film includes gruesome evidence of the Zanzibar revolution- which included the massacre of approximately 5000 Arabs in 1964.[1], as well authentic footage of the ‘Mau-Mau Rebellion’s aftermath. The latter includes scenes of damage at the scenes of massacres on white Highland farms, the mutilation of British livestock (and, apparently, wild animals including baboons), participants’ sentencing in colonial British court, & their re-appearance at the popular celebration of Jomo Kenyatta’s pardon of all Mau-Mau ‘heroes’ of anti-colonial resistance.
The film has been hailed as a masterpiece by some but has also been criticized as being racist, misleading, exploitive, or staged. The film arrived at the height of the Cold War, and well-before the popularity of ‘de-contextual’ reconsiderations of Colonialism.

Various cuts of the film have appeared over the years. IMDB lists the total runtime as 140 minutes, and a ‘complete’ version currently offered online via Google Video runs closest to that at 138′(minutes) 37″(seconds)[1].This is an Italian-language based version, with a clear soundtrack and legible English subtitling of this historic work.

IMDB lists the different runtimes for previously-released versions: USA- 122′; Norway- 124′; and Sweden- 116′. An English-language version currently released by Blue Underground runs 128 minutes. The film was released as “Africa Blood and Guts” in the USA in 1970, at only 83 minutes (over 45 minutes removed in order to focus exclusively on scenes of carnage); according to the text of the box for the Blue Underground release, directors Jacopetti and Prosperi both disowned this version. An R-rated version runs at 80 minutes.

Notable differences are also present between the Italian and English-language versions in terms of the text of the film. While they are similar, the language and focus of the two versions varies beyond what one might expect due to imperfect translation. Arguably, the English-language version changes the meaning and perspective of the film in subtle but important ways.

As an example, consider the opening crawl that appears in both versions. The subtitled translation of the opening crawl in the Italian version reads:
“The Africa of the great explorers, the huge land of hunting and adventure adored by entire generations of children, has disappeared forever. To that age-old Africa, swept away and destroyed by the tremendous speed of progress, we have said farewell. The devastation, the slaughter, the massacres which we assisted belong to a new Africa– one which if it emerges from its ruins to be more modern, more rational, more functional, more conscious- will be unrecognizable.
“On the other hand, the world is racing toward better times. The new America rose from the ashes of a few white man, all the redskins, and the bones of millions of buffalo. The new, carved up Africa will rise again upon the tombs of a few white men, millions of black men, and upon the immense graveyards that were once its game reserves. The endeavor is so modern and recent that there is no room to discuss it at the moral level. The purpose of this film is only to bid farewell to the old Africa that is dying and entrust to history the documentation of its agony”
The English-language version (included in “Africa Blood and Guts” and still attached to the English-Language version of the film)has different focus and language. Any implication that Africa would be “unrecognizable” if it were more rational, functional, etc. is removed; and an emphasis is added to the idea that the most cynical narration is simply impartial. It can be seen that the English version actually encourages the moral judgement for which the Italian version left “no room”:
“The old Africa has disappeared. Untouched Jungles, huge herds of game, high adventure, the happy hunting ground- those are the dreams of the past. Today there is a new Africa – modern and ambitious. The old Africa died amidst the massacres and devastations we filmed. But revolutions, even for the better, are seldom pretty. America was built over the bones of thousands of pioneers and revolutionary soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Indians, and millions of Bison. The new Africa emerges over the graves of thousands of whites and Arabs, and millions of blacks, and over the bleak boneyards that once were the game reserves.
“What the camera sees, it films pitilessly, without sympathy, without taking sides. Judging is for you to do, later. This film only says farewell to the old Africa, and gives to the world the pictures of its agony.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s