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Africa’s Last Romantic

The Films, Books and Expeditions of John L. Brom

Olga Brom Spencer and Glenn Reynolds

Africa’s Last Romantic: The Films, Books and Expeditions of John L. Brom captures the drama and excitement of John L. Brom’s film expeditions from 1949 to 1962 through sub-Saharan Africa. Brom was the only explorer to follow the footsteps of Henry Morton Stanley and in a documentary interviewed the two last survivors of Stanley’s expeditions from 1874 to 1890. In 1955 he also interviewed the famous nineteenth-century East African slave trader Tippu Tip’s grandson, who defended his grandfather’s trade. Brom’s expedition was the basis for his bestseller 20,000 Miles in the African Jungle, which was translated into eleven languages. Brom managed to interview and film the rulers and tribes he encountered before they were decimated in the civil wars of the Congo after independence, and his historic films are now preserved in the Human Studies Film Archives of the Smithsonian Institution. Over 500 articles were published on Brom’s work on both sides of the Atlantic during his lifetime. Africa’s Last Romantic is a useful addition to college courses in Third World cinema, cinema studies, and African history.
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Chapter 3: Royal Foumban and Unexpected Dangers


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When the expedition arrived in Foumban, a lovely stone house awaited them, courtesy of the Sultan Seydou, uncle of Prince Arouna, who was the royal host in absence of the Prince. The house consisted of several bedrooms, and more importantly included the luxury of bathrooms! Three subjects of the sultan even provided domestic services, including cooking. The air in Foumban was pure, and mild breezes caressed the leaves of nearby palm trees; thus conditions for shooting were most favorable.

Brom visited the sultan in private audience to discuss the extent of assistance he could expect. He was pleased to hear that for two days all the sultan’s subjects would be available for filming. On Brom’s request, a simulated welcome by the sultan and his nobles would be organized before the old royal palace with all the pomp and mass presence of his subjects. Clearly, the sultan was determined to show off the superior lifestyle of his sultanate and Bamoun culture.

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