The various groups filing a lawsuit against the academy in behalf of “The Color Purple” have my sympathy.
“The Color Purple” represents something real and genuine, rarely seen in Hollywood. By contrast “Out of Africa” embodies every myth and threadbare cliche about Africa that Hollywood has ever cranked out.
None of its leading characters are black and the Africans that appear in the film are stereotyped either as servants who pour tea for the white Memsahib and mumble “Yes, Bwana” all over the place, or as spear-toting, bone-through-the-nose savages who live in grass huts and let their women run around topless.
In addition, like every other “African” movie Hollywood has ever produced, “Out of Africa” contains every dusted-off cinematographic gim-crack from the African prop room and takes place in the Highlands of Kenya, which comprise a minute part of the African land mass.
There also are white game hunters, wild-animal footage and wealthy white settlers sipping tea on the veranda while expropriating Kenya’s most valuable land from its rightful owners. There are even a few remarks about the evils of colonialism, which, in the contest of the film, are about as phony as Kadafi’s latest press release.
In short, “Out of Africa” is not an African film at all and contains nothing at all about the struggles, agonies, hopes and aspirations of real Africans.
It is, instead, the typical sentimentalized, Cloroxed, white-American fantasy of what Africa is supposed to be. It deserves neither the critical acclaim nor the awards that have been heaped upon it.
That both the critics and the members of the academy are so easily fooled by such imitation-Africa pictures indicates that for all its pretensions, Hollywood really hasn’t changed much from the days of “Birth of the Nation.”
WILLIAM JOSEPH MILLER