Africa Addio ("Farewell Africa" / "Africa Blood and Guts") (1966)
by Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi
Africa Addio is a 1966 Italian exploitation film about the end of the colonial era in Africa. The film was released in a shorter format under the names "Africa Blood and Guts" in the USA 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 largely characterize "Africa Addio". It is included in the "Mondo Cane Collection" currently being distributed by Blue Underground.
The film is edited with a style that numerous reviewers have deemed to be a "pro-white European" and "pro-Colonialist" slant as seen during the first wave of what became endemic African revolutions. It makes virtually no references to past atrocities and exploitations committed by European colonialists instead the film mainly focuses on the atrocities and crimes committed by Black Africans. The film's promotion, opening subtitles and subsequent narration clearly inform the viewer that the sole purpose of this film is to serve as a monument to the Africa once under white European domination:
"Europe has abandoned her baby," the narrator mourns, "just when it needs her the most." Who has taken over, now that the colonialists have left? The advertising announces: "Raw, wild, brutal, modern-day savages!"
Many sequences are staged or framed as Cinéma vérité style but are obvious reenactments. For instance, during one sequence, a black youth is shown running through the fields, trailing behind him a chunk of dead-fox on a rope. There are no foxes in Africa but the British upper-classes from enjoy the traditional fox hunt thus an obviously poverty-ravaged teenager is used to run from the dogs instead. In anther sequence, a white soldier, while capturing a black African implores him to: "Get movin Sammy Davis!" The film includes many reenactments and jump cuts to create a feeling of realism. Europeans are usually seen in soft focus while they mourn their farms and homes being sold while Black Africans are shot with fish eye lens and from what could called unflattering angles.
Also included is realistic footage of the Zanzibar revolution- which included the massacre of approximately 5000 Arabs in 1964, as well authentic footage of the 'Mau-Mau Rebellion's aftermath.
Controversies surrounding the film
* In West Germany, a protest movement against the film emerged after "Africa Addio" was awarded by the state-controlled movie rating board ("Filmbewertungsstelle Wiesbaden"). The protest was chiefly organized by the Socialist German Student Union (SDS) and groups of African students. In West Berlin, the distributor resigned from showing the film after a series of demonstrations and damages to cinemas. Today, the protests against "Africa Addio" are regarded as being the first anti-racist movement in German history.
* The film has been banned as racist in Italy and England.
* Co-Director Gualtiero Jacopetti was accused of murder and tried in Italy due to accusations that one of the executions which appears in the film was staged for the camera. He was acquitted.
* The film has had accusations that parts of it were staged or even "created" leveled against it from various critics over the years. The directors deny this, claiming in the documentary about their work "The Godfathers of Mondo" that the only scenes they ever staged were in Mondo Cane 2.
Roger Ebert's review
In his 1967 review of the film, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and film critic Roger Ebert called Africa Addio: "...brutal, dishonest, racist..." In his review, he points to a number of unlikely assertions and sequences on the part of the filmmakers, and the likelihood of a number of scenes being staged. Particularly, he questions the sequence where Boers leave Kenya in cattle-drawn wagons:
"One dubious scene shows white Boers purportedly leaving Kenya in cattle-drawn wagons for the long trek back to the Cape. "A freedom march in reverse," the narrator explains. "These Boers settled Kenya generations ago, but have been driven from their own country." In fact, cattle-drawn wagons are no longer in general use in Africa, as Jacopetti and Prosperi undoubtedly knew. Real Boers (there are a few among the mostly British white population in Kenya) would probably call up a moving van for their furniture and then fly down to the Cape."
Ebert also questions the graphic hunting sequences:
"Other scenes are equally preposterous. We are told that Africans, lacking modern weapons, surround an area the size of Rhode Island, 10,000 strong, and close in on the trapped game, Ha! We are told that the Zambesi River was plundered of thousands of hippos in 1963, to provide cheap food. In fact, the Zambesi was in white hands in 1963, and essentially still is. Nor does Rhodesia or Zambia consume a lot of hippo meat. None, in fact. Another suspicious scene shows "poachers" torturing an elephant to death. The early footage is shot at ground level. After we have seen enough suffering, the camera goes aloft and we are told it's in a helicopter flown by game wardens. In fact, it's the same helicopter used throughout the film. Was the scene staged, or did real poachers conveniently agree to star? It seems pretty clear that the elephant died for our entertainment. Later, we learn that it was pregnant."
Ebert finally summed up his revulsion of the film by saying:
"...If only they were honestly presented, set in context, perhaps they could be justified. But they are not. Instead, they are staged for our amusement, cloaked in the respectability of an "impartial" documentary, and in the end that is the most disgusting thing about this wretched film.