Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Hamptons ’13: The Last Safari
will ever accuse Elizabeth L. Gilbert of being an imperialist exploiter. Her photography books documenting Africa’s
vanishing traditional customs are truly passion projects rather than commercial
endeavors. Yet, her well intentioned
tour of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley often leads to frustration over the course of
Matt Goldman’s documentary, The Last
screens during the 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival.
former war photojournalist, Gilbert turned her camera towards more uplifting
visuals, for the good of her soul.
Convinced many of the diverse local ceremonies and customs would not
survive the encroaching modern world, Gilbert set out to record them for the
sake of art and posterity. Mindful many
western photographers and filmmakers had exploited the images of various
tribes, Gilbert resolved to seek out her former subjects, so they could see the
results, along with their fellow tribespeople.
For many, it would also be a rare opportunity to see their distant
neighbors in the great valley. At least,
that was the idea.
a big city crew, Gilbert heads out to show her special slide show throughout
the valley, with Goldman, her filmmaker-significant other in tow. Even though
her exhibition team consists of native Kenyans, it quickly becomes apparent
Gilbert is the best equipped to make their trek. They might be Kenyan, but they
are as urban as New Yorkers.
Gilbert reconnects with her former subjects, they are uniformly delighted to
meet her again. As she stages her
presentations, she sometimes finds receptive audiences, who genuinely
appreciate what she is trying to do.
Others are disinterested at best.
In fact, it is often the western Gilbert who appears to be the exploited
one, as fast talkers and community councils more or less shake her down.
times, Safari undercuts the lingering
baggage of Rousseau, reminding viewers you can find both the best and worst
sorts of people in even the most remote corners of the globe. Yet, Goldman spares himself least of all,
appearing almost exclusively at his whiniest moments.
his credit, Goldman nicely conveys Gilbert’s love for the continent and its
people as well as the reciprocated affection for her amongst her friends and colleagues. For style points, he adds some ironic flare when
contrasting their journey with Henry Hathaway’s great white hunter movie, also titled
The Last Safari.
Clocking it at seventy five minutes, Safari never overstays its welcome. Goldman understandably emphasizes the
elements of adventure and cross-cultural fellowship, but the documentary is
still rather more challenging than one would expect. Propelled by an energetic soundtrack, The Last Safari is recommended for viewers
interested in African culture and the wider ethnographic issues at play. It screens this Sunday (10/13) and Monday
(10/14) during this year’s HIFF.
Labels: Documentary, Hamptons '13