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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 7: The Wild Kingdom

Extract

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CHAPTER SEVEN

WILD ANIMAL KINGDOM

The nature reserve formerly known as ‘Parc National Albert’ or Albert Park has been highly sought after by picture hunters from all over the world since its inception. Following the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the reserve became known as the National Park of Virunga, and continues to promote conservation in the region. The protected area is large— roughly the size of Belgium—and its natural frontiers, including the Virunga Mountains to the west, the Ruwenzori Range on the north, Lake Edward skirting the south, and Lake Albert to the east, all provide the needed isolation for large game to flourish in a changing Africa.

During Brom’s journey from Rutshuru to River Rwindi, he was surrounded by plains full of wild animals, living freely in this large, beautiful reserve. He had great opportunities to film and photograph elephants, grazing stubborn buffalos, omnipresent chimpanzees and other monkeys, antelope of every kind as well as zebras, giraffes and lions. One had to drive slowly as frequently elephants suddenly emerged quite unexpectedly from behind tall grass, or buffalo herds were crossing the road. It was essential to stop quickly as animals tend to charge if surprised and find themselves unable to run.

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