Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
It's strange to see "I Dreamed of Africa" at a time when the papers are filled with stories of white farmers being murdered in Zimbabwe. Here is the story of an Italian couple who move to the highlands of Kenya in 1972, buy a ranch near the Great Rift Valley and lead lives in which the Africans drift about in the background, vaguely, like unpaid extras. Is it really as simple as that? The realities of contemporary Africa are simply not dealt with.
A shame, since Kuki Gallmann is a real woman and still lives on Ol Ari Nyiro, a 100,000-acre ranch in Kenya that she has made into a showcase farm and wildlife conservancy. I know this because of her Web page (www.gallmannkenya.org); the movie never makes it very clear how the Gallmanns support themselves--it's not by working, apparently. Her husband Paolo is away for days at a time, hunting and fishing with his friends, and Kuki doesn't seem deeply engaged with the land, either (her attempt to create a dirt dam begins when she inadvertently pulls down a barn and ends with the tractor stuck in the mud).
The real Kuki Gallmann must have arrived at an accommodation with Africa and Africans, and with the Kenyan government. The Kuki in the movie has a few brief conversations in Swahili with her farm foreman and laborers, but devotes most of her attention to the landscape, which is indeed breathtaking (the film was shot on her ranch and in South African game preserves). The only social commentary we get, repeated three times, is, "Things have a different rhythm here." Kuki is played by Kim Basinger, who is ready to do more than the screenplay allows. She is convincing throughout, especially in a scene where trouble strikes her son Emanuele (Garrett Strommen)--her panic is real, but so is her competence as she tries to deal with the emergency. Her frustration with Paolo (Vincent Perez), is also real but mundane (frustrated at his extended hunting trips and general irresponsibility, she throws a handful of pasta at him).
Her life is interrupted from time to time by visits from her mother (Eva Marie Saint), who begs her to return to Italy, but, no, she belongs to the land, learns from experience, and tries to bring good out of the tragedies in her life by becoming a conservationist and a leader in the fight against poaching.
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