colonial-pictureSooooo … here’s some interesting news …

Angelina Jolie has been tapped to direct a biopic film on the life of paleoanthropologist Richard Leake, for Skydance Productions from a script by Eric Roth.

The working title of the film … “Africa”.

(*raised eyebrows*)

But wait. There’s more.

Via ‘Variety’, we learn that the story centres on “Leakey’s battle with ivory poachers, who threatened the existence of the African (note he only focused on Kenya) elephant population and the very soul of Africa”.

I’m stunned. The sheer audacity of the working title had me gasping.

If that logline doesn’t make anyone from Africa uncomfortable or make your blood boil,  I don’t know what else will.

Here’s why, for those of you truly interested:

Firstly, Richard Leakey. While being a well respected, sometimes controversial and loved paleontologist who incidentally is of English origin but was born in Kenya, he is NOT the embodiment of Africa.

Secondly, why is the very ‘soul of Africa’ reduced to the mere animals? While I’m all for animal rights, the soul of Africa is more than our fauna. Granted, I’m being petty here; the final hook/logline has not probably been written but this its obvious that this otherwise heartstring pulling copy was approved by someone for publishing on Variety. Someone on a mission to lay down the right prelaunch PR messages that would elicit an expected excitement about the project, thus the lyricism about a war against evil poachers threatening the very existence of the ‘soul of Africa’. Could someone please hand me a bucket?

The project stinks of yet another elitist white hijacking of Africa – reducing a single story about a single man in Kenya into the embodiment of an entire continent. While this is not a white versus black issue (Leakey could be green for all I care), the fact is that he is a minority in Africa and thus his story should not be given a title that ‘speaks’ for the entire continent. The issue is that Africa is more than just elephants, poachers and a single hero. Africa is not a single story (as Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie outlines so eloquently here), neither is it a single country (as many Africans will strongly state after so many infuriating experiences of being lumped together under one banner, eponymous though it may be).

The project reeks of a lazy script that plays off  Hollywood ‘ye old, same old, same old lazily thought through  lens of seeing Africa.

A lens that reduces Africans into mere side props in a story about our own place of birth, lumps us into one ‘country’, ignores our diversity and downplays our significance. Frankly, it pisses me off.  It’s the ultimate insult. Africans are not good enough to develop a relevant story about their rich and diverse history, so we’ll just hijack the continent in entirety on a hero, while worthy in his own right, most people outside of Kenya have never heard of. 

How would Americans feel if the story of say, Martin Luther King Junior, was named ‘America’? ‘Hollywood’ wouldn’t dare. Or if a story about Mother Teresa was called ‘Asia’? Geez. No-one would even risk naming Mandela’s story ‘Africa’ and his legacy was much more powerful than Leakey’s if I say so myself, so please Skydance, take a major chill pill. Go ahead and tell Leakey’s story but while doing so have some respect for our often marginalised, yet wildly diverse and proud continent and people.

Just don’t make a simplistic farce of the name ‘Africa’ as you do.

(Or perhaps this is all prank by and/or Jolie and Skydance Productions; a tongue in cheek satirical press release meant to elicit giggles a la this post by Mark Crocker on ’10 Astounding Facts about the Country of Africa’. Read it and literally weep -



About The Author


Neva is a storyteller and media strategist with a background in PR, film, advertising and digital marketing who is passionate about technology, new media and the endless possibilities of the social and mobile sphere. Read more about her on our 'About Us' page.

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