1. African Queen (1951)
This film was made in an era when it was unusual for Hollywood to shoot scenes in Africa. But director John Huston was determined to go for authenticity when filming the African Queen and chose Uganda and the Congo as filming locations to tell the tale of a drunken riverboat captain’s tetchy relationship with a missionary spinster.
Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn took the lead roles and the spiky banter between them is set around the time of a (real-life) skirmish between Britain and Germany on Lake Tanganyika during World War I.
The steam tug boat featured in the film was owned and operated in Lake Victoria – an African great lake which is divided between the countries of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
2. The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952)
The success of African Queen resulted in other film crews trooping over to Africa to take advantage of breathtaking scenery which simply couldn’t be re-created in Hollywood film lots. Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro provided the inspiration for the film of the same name and tells the story of writer Harry Street (played by Gregory Peck) re-evaluating his life while on safari in Africa with his girlfriend (played by femme fatale Ava Gardner). The film, despite the reference to Kilimanjaro, a mountain located in Tanzania, was mainly shot in Kenya. Does the film stick to the unexpected ending in Hemingway’s short story? You’ll just have to watch to find out.
3. Zulu (1964)
[Picture shows the battle site at Rorke’s Drift as it is today]
In January 1879, 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended a small garrison from being claimed by 3,000 Zulu warriors. The battle became known as the Battle of Rorke’s Drift and was brilliantly re-enacted by actors such as Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins in the 1964 film Zulu.
The real battle took place near a ford on the Buffalo River and the film’s producer Stanley Baker recreated the mission depot in the nearby Drakensberg Mountains and filmed other footage in the national parks of KwaZulu-Natal.
Today, the storehouse and hospital from the battle site are long gone – replaced by modest modern buildings which give little clue as to the spectacular scenes which took place there in January 1879. Tourists still flock to the area to look at the view of the beautiful hills on which the Zulu armies menacingly massed over 133 years ago.
4. Out of Africa (1985)
This film examines the relationship between the African big game hunter Dennis Finch-Hatten (played by Robert Redford) and the wealthy Danish writer Karen Blixen (played by Meryl Streep). Redford’s character favours the simple customs held dear by the nomadic Maasai people, while Streep’s character, initially at least, prefers a life of luxury. While the two actors are the undoubted stars of the film, they are sometimes overshadowed by the breathtaking Kenyan scenery which provides the backdrop to all the key scenes.
Some of the actors who appear on the credits are members of the Maasai tribe named in the book. Gaining insight into the Maasai way of life is one of many reasons that intrepid holidaymakers flock to Kenya to embark on Masai Mara safaris.
5. Gorillas in the Mist (1988)
This American film introduced cinema audiences to ground-breaking work studying gorillas conducted by Diane Fossey (played by Sigourney Weaver). It also introduced movie-goers to the breathtaking scenery of the gorillas’ environment – the lush jungle habitats in the hills of Rwanda.
The slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes in the Volcanoes National Park are the places to be for those who want to see where the action in the film took place.
A visit to this fantastic part of Rwanda offers the chance to see some of the members of the nine habituated Virunga gorilla families emerging from the mist.
James Christie writes for Safari Consultants – providers of tailor-made safaris.
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