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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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Narrator’s Acknowledgment


Forty five years after my husband John L. Brom passed away, I received a telephone call from the Human Studies Film Archives at the Smithsonian Institute informing me that a scholar screened their Brom’s African documentaries and would like to interview me about my late husband’s work.

The scholar, Professor Glenn Reynolds, well known for his expertise and publications in the field of Colonial Cinema in Africa, clarified during a subsequent meeting that the early period of filmmaking in Africa was inadequately documented, and stated his goal of filling this gap by providing accounts of surviving cineastes of this historic era.

Dr. Reynolds asked a direct question: could I remember and narrate the exploratory work of my late husband? John L. Brom was among the few filmmakers who captured the genuine tribal life of sub-Saharan Africa during the colonial era, before the independence period wiped out the ancient traditions and folklore.

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