Africa Addio

Africa Addio

"Africa Addio" is a 1966 Italian documentary film about the end of the colonial era in Africa. The film was released under the names "Africa Blood and Guts" in the USA (which was only half of the entire film) and "Farewell Africa" in the UK. The movie documents some of the disruptions caused by decolonization, such as poaching in former animal preserves and bloody revolutions, including the Zanzibar revolution which resulted in the massacre of approximately 5000 Arabs in 1964. [cite book |last=Plekhanov |first=Sergeĭ |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=A Reformer on the Throne: Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year= |month= |publisher=Trident Press Ltd |location= |language= |isbn=1-9007-2470-7 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages=91 |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] In most of its edited incarnations, the movie leaves out mention of similar atrocities that were committed under colonial powers. While the film claims to dispassionately show reality, it has been criticized as biased by many viewers over the years (perhaps most notably Roger Ebert).

The film was shot over a period of three years, by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, two Italian filmmakers who had gained fame a few years earlier (with co-director Paolo Cavara) as the directors of Mondo Cane in 1962. This film launched the so-called Mondo film genre, a cycle of documentaries or "shockumentaries" which often featured sensational topics, of which "Africa Addio" is arguably a part (it is included in the "Mondo Cane Collection" currently being distributed by Blue Underground).

The film has been hailed as a masterpiece (for instance, by Conrad H. Roth) but has also been consistently criticized as being racist, misleading, exploitive, or staged. Criticism has led to the creation of many cuts of the film, as well as its outright ban in some markets.


Various cuts of the film have appeared over the years. IMDB lists the total runtime as 140 minutes, but lists different runtimes for versions released in the USA (122 minutes), Norway (124 minutes) and Sweden (116 minutes). The current English-language version released by Blue Underground runs 128 minutes. The film was released as "Africa Blood and Guts" in the USA in 1970, at only 83 minutes (over 45 minutes removed in order to focus exclusively on scenes of carnage); according to the text of the box for the Blue Underground release, directors Jacopetti and Prosperi both disowned this version. An R-rated version runs at 80 minutes.

Notable differences are also present between the Italian and English-language versions in terms of the text of the film. While they are similar, the language and focus of the two version varies beyond what one might expect due to imperfect translation. Arguably, the English-language version changes the meaning and perspective of the film in subtle but important ways.

As an example, consider the opening crawl that appears in both versions. The subtitled translation of the opening crawl in the Italian version reads:
*The Africa of the great explorers, the huge land of hunting and adventure adored by entire generations of children, has disappeared forever. To that age-old Africa, swept away and destroyed by the tremendous speed of progress, we have said farewell. The devastation, the slaughter, the massacres which we assisted, belong to a new Africa... one which if it emerges from its ruins to be more modern, more rational, more functional, more conscious, will be unrecognizable.

On the other hand, the world is racing toward better times. The new America rose from the ashes of a few white man, all the redskins, and the bones of millions of buffalo. The new, carved up Africa will rise again upon the tombs of a few white men, millions of black men, and upon the immense graveyards that were once its game reserves. The endeavor is so modern and recent that there is no room to discuss it at the moral level. The purpose of this film is only to bid farewell to the old Africa that is dying and entrust to history the documentation of its agony. [ [ "Africa Blood and Guts"] , Gualtiero Jacopetti, et al., 1970]

On the other hand, the English-language version (included originally in "Africa Blood and Guts" and still attached to the English-Language cut of the film) is slightly different in focus and language. The implication that Africa would be "unrecognizable" if it were more rational, functional, etc. is removed, but an emphasis is added on the idea of the filmmakers' impartiality. Note, as well, that the English version actually encourages the moral judgement for which the Italian version left "no room":
*The old Africa has disappeared. Untouched Jungles, huge herds of game, high adventure, the happy hunting ground- those are the dreams of the past. Today there is a new Africa - modern and ambitious.

The old Africa died amidst the massacres and devastations we filmed. But revolutions, even for the better, are seldom pretty. America was built over the bones of thousands of pioneers and revolutionary soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Indians, and millions of Bison. The new Africa emerges over the graves of thousands of whites and Arabs, and millions of blacks, and over the bleak boneyards that once were the game reserves.

What the camera sees, it films pitilessly, without sympathy, without taking sides. Judging is for you to do, later. This film only says farewell to the old Africa, and gives to the world the pictures of its agony.
[ ["Africa Addio"] , Gualtiero Jacopetti, et al., 1966]


The documentary was written, directed, and edited jointly by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi and was narrated by Sergio Rossi (not the fashion designer with the same name). It was produced by Angelo Rizzoli.


*Many of the scenes (however true) appear to contain gratuitous violence. That is, the excessive violence might be for shock value or considered as historic archive. Like many of the Mondo documentaries, "Africa Addio" has been accused of sensationalism and exploitation.

*Charges of racism:

The film has been banned as racist in Italy and England.

*In his 1967 Review of the film, Roger Ebert called it "...Brutal, dishonest, racist..." In his review, he points particularly 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, the hunting sequence where the narration suggests that 10,000 Africans converge on an area "the size of Rhode Island" and the assertion that Africans slaughtered massive numbers of Hippos for food. Moreover, he argues that the filmmakers have set up various scenes. In particular, a scene where an Elephant is killed by a poacher seems to implicate the filmmakers in staging the event. [ [ "Africa Addio" review] , Roger Ebert, April 25, 1967] It's difficult to know what cut of the film Ebert saw; its possible he saw the American cut released at the time under the title "Africa Blood and Guts" which runs at 83 minutes and removes much of the political and social context. The review currently online, however, lists the title as "Africa Addio," and the film was not released in America as "Africa Blood and Guts" until 1970, while Ebert reviewed the film in 1967, so he may also have seen one of the longer cuts which bear that name.

*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. [ [ 'A Dog's World: The Mondo Cane Collection] , Bill Gibron, December 1, 2003]

*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. [ [ 'A Dog's World: The Mondo Cane Collection] , Bill Gibron, December 1, 2003]


External links

* [ IMDB review ]
* [ A review by Conrad H. Roth]

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