Twentieth-century British and US films about Africa have been predominantly racist productions that employ what Kenneth Cameron calls archetypes—the White Queen, the White Hunter, the Good African, the Dangerous African, and so on. This article explores the mise-en-scène of Africa in two celebrated twenty-first century films, The Constant Gardener and Blood Diamond, and questions whether problematic archetypes still hold in the new millennium. By reading both films as noir thrillers with humanitarian agendas, the article highlights their subversive potential to “enlighten” Western audiences about oppression on the “dark continent.” The article focuses on the respective story lines, which indict Western corporations, and on the directors' manipulation of lightness and darkness as a means of literally rendering Western exploitation visible. Despite this potential, however, neither of the films manages to evade the racism that dominated cinematic portrayals of Africa in the previous century. Both films model their central characters on archetypes and imagine an Africa in which whiteness is normative and in which white masculinity connotes agency. Narrative and cinematography ultimately collude to portray Africa as universally chaotic and Africans as universally oppressed. The filmmakers' good intentions notwithstanding, these two commercially successful films fall short and affirm Cameron's conclusion that Britain and the United States are not ready for a new cinematic Africa, even in a new millennium.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| December 01 2011
Diana Adesola Mafe; (Mis)Imagining Africa in the New Millennium: The Constant Gardener and Blood Diamond. Camera Obscura 1 December 2011; 25 (3 (75)): 69–99. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2010-010
Download citation file: