cover image In Darkest Hollywood: Exploring the Jungles of South Africa

In Darkest Hollywood: Exploring the Jungles of South Africa

Peter David, Peter Davis. Ohio University Press, $19.95 (225pp) ISBN 978-0-8214-1162-9

This intriguing book, a companion volume to a documentary film of the same name, elaborates how screen views of South Africa, especially of black South Africans, long helped maintain distorted, racist images. Documentary filmmaker Davis selects specific genre films for analysis. In the 1950s, the author shows, the South African government permitted the start of a black-created cinema, with such films as Jim Comes to Jo'burg and Zonk. Ironically, after apartheid intensified in the 1960s, filmmakers both inside and outside South Africa produced black-white ""buddy"" movies, such as Sidney Poitier's The Wilby Conspiracy. Davis is most scornful toward Jamie Uys's successful but ""treacherous"" The Gods Must Be Crazy, which misrepresented the black liberation struggle, Davis says, by focusing on the romantic ""Noble Savage"" figure of Xi rather than his more real South African counterparts. The big films of the 1980s, such as A World Apart and A Dry White Season, pushed white heroes above black ones; Davis notes that Cry Freedom softened the views of Steve Biko, whose black-consciousness philosophy urged independence from whites. The author also surveys a series of films that perpetuate images of warlike Zulus. Unfortunately, it is only in his introduction that Davis acknowledges such recent films as Sarafina! and Friends, which offer new images of South Africa. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)