She Also Dreamed Of Africa

We respond to Huffington Post's shockingly close-minded African news article "I Also Dreamed of Africa" article.

Trolling the internet for Africa-related stories is our business. Nothing we find out there surprises us anymore — we've witnessed everything from "African Gangnam Style," to the Invisible Children saga, to the video of the Cameroonian almost-beauty queen eating a live crab. It's easy to ignore the bulk of the outrageous, but once in awhile a little gem of total ignorance will surface and we're forced to respond with equally igno-irreverence.

When Golriz Moeini's Huffington Post article titled "I Also Dreamed of Africa" first made it around the office we were shell-shocked. Moeini writes with descriptions of an imagined Africa that are reminiscent of a 19th century fair lady bored with modern life in the metropole. It literally says:

I want to experience the rawness of nature in the way that the likes of Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, Karen Blixen and Kuki Gallmann saw when they fist stepped on the earth there... yet I often wonder if I would have the same tenacity to drop everything and move to Africa as a permanent resident, live with the natives and wild, if I had the chance?

Her article goes on to list the "10 Reasons Why One Should Admire a Woman Like Kuki Gallmann," the author of the book I Dreamed of Africa and the inspiration for the subsequent Hollywood film starring Kim Bassinger. Reason #3 reads: "She dropped her chic, cosmopolitan life in Italy with all its luxuries to be a hardworking rancher in Africa," reason #6 reads: "Her tireless efforts to help the African tribes and communities thrive by teaching Western skills."

Certain truths about humans are hard to grasp. We'll never understand how Moeini managed to shamelessly type such dated musings. Furthermore, we'll never understand how the Huffington Post shamelessly published them. What follows is a list of ridiculous musings of our own — we struggled with the titling so the list has three titles each more clever than the last.

Top Reasons Why, Despite Her Dreams, Golriz Moeini Should Not Go To Africa:

So Many Jokes We Don't Know Where To Start:

What Fucking Year Is This?:

S: Does she know that Africans have the internet? Writing like this, with its wack perspective that masks an overwhelming privilege of mobility and some crazytown essentialism under a tampon-commercial itinerary for sacrifice does not fly! stay home lady.

A: Golriz Moeini would annoy the shit out of "the natives." (The Huff Post been trolling The Jungle Book for new content I see.)

Z: I saw The Lion King too.

ZJ: I've often had fond dreams of being dressed up in costumes created by Julie Taymor, and frolicking the vast tundra in syncopated dance with my fellow costumed animals.

G: Gallmann's tireless efforts to help the "African tribes and communities thrive by teaching Western skills"? - By "Western Skills" does she mean she's bringing them Jesus and Gonorrhea like the original colonizers?

E: No I think she means subprime mortgages.

D: The most egregious points have already been flagged. But I will say that Moeini should only move to Africa if in fact she's ready for the "massive sacrifice." Whoa...

M: She says she grew up in Iran, a country that has also been essentialised in the Western imagination. She should know better.

MK: And I quote: "I know several people that have been there that complained about a bad safari or uncomfortable accommodations and they did not enjoy their trip because of that, and when I hear their story I'm certain that they went for the wrong reasons entirely." I hope she doesn't have a panic attack when she sees that inexplicably there are cities on the island of Africa.

K: Only reaction:

V: LOL! That wins!


1/18 - Golriz Moeini responds to concerns about her article in the Huffington Post's comment section. See the highlighted portion below. We can't make this stuff up.

Golriz Moeini‘s response

Image: Courtesy TIFF

Jenna Cato Bass is Capturing the Horrors of an Unhealed Nation

The film marks the South African director's third debut and stride towards making a name for herself in the international film circuit.

Ever since premiering her debut film, Love the One You Love, which won the Best Feature Film at the Jozi Festival in 2015, Jenna Cato Bass has been a name to watch on the international film festival circuit. Her 2017 feature, High Fantasy, was the first of her films to land on the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup, followed by Flatland in 2019. Her latest offering, Mlungu Wam (Good Madam), debuted at TIFF in September of 2021 — marking her third time at the esteemed Canadian film event.

Often provocative, always thought-provoking, Bass' films have come to establish her as a director who looks at South Africa's youth, the lives they're living and the future that awaits them, with a nuanced, open-minded lens. For the first time in her career, Bass uses the genre of horror to dig into an enduring mark of the country's past — that of the fraught, complex relationship between madam and domestic worker, in Mlungu Wam (Good Madam). Set in Cape Town, the film follows the unusual, disturbing things that start happening when a young woman moves back in with her estranged mother, who is the longtime caretaker for a rich, white household.

Bass also co-wrote the film Tug of War (Vuta N'Kuvute), which became Tanzania's first film to be selected for TIFF this year, and she co-wrote Rafiki, which was Kenya's first film at TIFF in 2018.

She spoke to OkayAfrica about playing in a new genre and her hopes for African cinema.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

This story revolves around the relationship between a domestic worker and her 'madam.' What made you want to make a film about this subject?

When I make films, I like the concept to revolve around something that we all have in common - because, despite the many fractures in our society, these shared places exist. And in South Africa, we felt that everyone - in some way or another - has been deeply affected by domestic work and domestic workers, who are a keystone in our society's structure. Additionally, the 'maid' and 'madam' relationship is the ultimate symbol of race relations in South Africa - as well as how they haven't changed significantly, despite almost thirty years of democracy. So a domestic worker was the perfect character around which to centre a South African horror.

The genre of horror works really well to explore this subject and tell this story — when did you know it would be the genre you'd want to use?

The early stages of developing a film aren't always linear for me. I'll be thinking about a genre I'm interested in, and then parallel to that I'll have an idea for a story or a character, and later on, will realize that these pieces all fit together. In this case, I'd been wanting to make a horror film for ages, but hadn't found the right story… until I had the idea for Mlungu Wam, and I realized I was finally ready to try this genre.

What challenges did you face in making a horror?

It was my first time working in this genre, and it was intimidating because there's no saving you if you fail. We were also working on a very, very limited budget, so it wasn't possible to show as much as we'd like to - but then again, this story was all about the subjective and the unseen, so I did as much research and planning as we could, and just had to trust it would work.

Where did you film, and did that have any impact on the process at all?

We filmed in a house in Cape Town, in a gated community in the Southern Suburbs. The house and the environment had a major impact on the film - especially because we were also quarantining there for the full 7 weeks of rehearsal and shooting. The house was our set and our accommodation, so it was very intense, very claustrophobic, and very triggering for many of our team members.

How did you and co-writer Babalwa Baartman work on the story? You've included cast members in the writing process in your previous work — did you do that here too?

Mlungu Wam was made along similar lines to my first two films, Love The One You Love and High Fantasy, where we started with an outline, cast actors, then workshopped the characters collaboratively before completing the story breakdown and using improv for the dialogue. Babalwa and I had worked together using this method on a short film we made in 2019 called Sizohlala. She really understands the process, and it was a really rewarding experience exploring the story with her and our cast.

How did Kristina Ceyton, who produced the excellent acclaimed horrors The Babadook and The Nightingale, through Causeway Films, come to be involved in this film?

I had met Sam Jennings, who is also a producer with Causeway Films, several years ago at a festival. We really connected and kept in touch over the years, sharing our work, and hoping there'd be a chance to collaborate. So when we were developing Mlungu Wam, I pitched her and Kristina the concept and they were immediately supportive. It has been a massive pleasure working with them both.

Your films are known to venture into themes of identity and healing from the past — how does this film speak to that?

Mlungu Wam is definitely about this too - it's a story about three generations of women (actually four, if you include Tsidi's grandmother, who is an unseen character in the film), how they are haunted by the past and eventually refuse to remain chained any longer. Their healing is collective, linked to each other, and wouldn't be possible for them alone as individuals.

Still from Bass's film Mlungu Wam Image: Courtesy TIFF

You've been at TIFF before - how has your experience of it been this year, with it being a hybrid of virtual and in-person?

Things have been quieter and a bit harder to navigate, but the TIFF staff have done incredible work getting the festival off the ground, despite endless challenges. It has felt very surreal to be here, and a privilege - and inspiring too, that we can still get together to celebrate films, even though our world is in such a mess. We had over 200 (socially distanced) people at our last screening, and that was an amazing feeling.

Yours is one of few African films on this year's line-up - is there anything you'd like to see happen to try improve that?

Regarding African cinema, TIFF has a real range of films this year, across several sections. Compared to many other festivals, they seem really invested in supporting cinema from the continent. Of course, this could be better, but it's also an example to other festivals who claim there aren't enough African films, that this is clearly not the case.

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