'Man of Africa' was shown at the BFI London in November 2011 in the presence of Cyril Frankel who wrote the original story and directed the movie. The nonagenarian Mr Frankel treated the appreciative audience to an erudite after screening Q & A during which he stated his ambition to have the film shown in East Africa as he would "love to see the reaction of audiences there". I do not know what the odds are of Mr Frankel fulfilling this objective but if the rarity of showings in the UK is any indication, my guess is they are just about nil. According to an informative BFI leaflet distributed at the showing, the film was shown at the 1954 Edinburgh Film Festival and in limited release the same year in the USA in the director's 74 minute version. It was then mutilated (Mr Frankel's word) to a 44 minute version without the knowledge or approval of the director and shown as a support film in some UK cinemas in 1955/6. While the Edinburgh showing was well received this was not the case with the 44 minute version and the film then languished unseen until this single 74 minute BFI showing.
In 1952 some of the Bagika people of the Kigezi region of Uganda were persuaded to migrate from their over-cultivated highland home to a more fertile but uncultivated lowland region. What started life as a planned documentary of this event evolved into a dramatisation. The film was shot on a very tight budget entirely on location using a British crew of just seven including the director. The film was cast entirely from the local population none of whom had acted previously and because some lacked English the decision was taken to utilise a narrator, also black. This was the first film made by the British film industry featuring an all black cast and the first to film them naturalistically rather than as a butt of humour or in servitude and as such was unique at the time. Indeed it is much to Frankel's credit that he managed to avoid virtually all of the cinema clichés of the day, not only concerning race but also of filming in Africa. For the music, the services of Malcolm Arnold, who had previously scored 'Devil on Horseback' for Frankel, were called upon. Arnold later reworked some of his score ideas for the John Huston movie 'The Roots of Heaven', also set in Africa.
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