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The Flying Doctors of East Africa (1970)

Die fliegenden Ärzte von Ostafrika (original title)
Film about the doctors that fly all over central Africa to bring medical help to the people living in the bush.


Werner Herzog


Werner Herzog




Credited cast:
Wilfried Klaus ... Narrator
Michael Woods Michael Woods ... Self (as Dr. Michael Woods)


Film about the doctors that fly all over central Africa to bring medical help to the people living in the bush.

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Minor Herzog which still has moments of genuine wonder
7 November 2017 | by Red-BarracudaSee all my reviews

This early documentary from director Werner Herzog was, like some of his other similar films from the period such as Handicapped Future (1971), made for television as opposed the cinema. Nevertheless, it still displays some of the features which would go on to mark him out as such a great documentarian. This one is ostensibly about a group of British physicians who set up a flying doctors operation to help tribe's peoples who populate the vast areas of undeveloped rural east Africa. I say ostensibly because, while it does feature these doctors and describes elements of their operation, it's a film which truly works when it focuses on atypical details. This is a facet of Herzog which he would show an instinctive knack for time and again throughout his career, both in his fictional films as well as his documentaries. In this particular example, it's these odd observations which are the ones which stick with the viewer afterwards. We watch people cover plane wheels with branches and twigs in order to hide them from hyenas and leopards, both of whom we learn have a predilection for eating tyres, we witness the extraordinary sight of a tribe who are afraid and totally unsure of themselves when trying to mount half a dozen steps which lead into the back of a van – these lithe athletic people clearly having some inbuilt problem with navigating something we don't think twice about, similarly a group of Africans are shown a series of pictures and asked to find details we clearly can see such as an eye and a human figure; many find it simply impossible to do so. These latter two segments are frankly incredible and tell us so much about the human brain. The ways in which different cultures which have developed completely independently of one and other have very differing inbuilt ideas about many seemingly ordinary things. Human perception is a complex thing. It made me think about how the representative images that were shown, really are quite strange and abstract and it is only by growing up in a culture surrounded by them that they make any sense at all. Completely fascinating stuff.

When it comes down to it, the material surrounding the doctors themselves can sometimes become a bit dry but it is when Herzog fearlessly goes off message that this film really strikes a chord. This may be a minor work of his but it shows once again that minor Herzog is still something which always offers at least something fascinating.

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West Germany


German | English | Swahili

Release Date:

3 May 1970 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

The Flying Doctors of East Africa See more »

Filming Locations:

Tanzania See more »


Box Office


DEM40,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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