Hollywood Movies That Have Used Swahili

Over the years, the Swahili language has increasingly found its place in the international film industry. While some films simply feature short transcripts of Swahili, there are others which wholly feature Swahili as the main language used in the dialogues between the characters. Below is a look at some of the award winning and critically acclaimed movies that have featured the use of Swahili language in their transcripts.

The Last King of Scotland

While this movie was based on a fictional account of the life of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the primary language spoken by African characters in The Last King of Scotland was Swahili. However, English is the main language in the film. In the film, Forest Whitaker played Idi Amin and spoke a lot of Swahili when he was speaking to other African characters. During the scenes where Swahili is spoken, English subtitles are provided to enable non-Swahili speakers to understand what the characters are saying. For his role, Forest Whitaker won the Best Leading Actor Award at the 2007 Oscars amongst other accolades.

Nowhere in Africa

Nowhere in Africa is a German film released in 2001 which features a lot of dialogue in the Swahili language. Other languages featured in this film are German and English. This film was adapted from an autobiographical novel of the same name written by Stefanie Zweig. The novel was based on a real life Jewish family which immigrated to Kenya to start farming during the Second World War in order to escape the wrath of the Nazis in Germany. Directed by Caroline link, the film starred Julianne Kohler and Merab Ninidze. This film also received an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2002, amongst other awards and critical acclaim.

Out of Africa

Out of Africa is an Academy Award-winning film based on the novel of the same name and written by Isak Dinesen – also known as Karen Blixen. In 1985, the film was adapted from the novel by director Sydney Pollack and starred Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, with Robert Redford playing Denis Finch-Hatton. Because the film was based in Kenya and its main characters were Kenyan settlers, there is a lot of use of the Swahili language featured in the dialogue of the film. This is mainly found in conversations between the main characters and African characters, representing Kenyans who in most cases had not learnt the English language by the 1930s, which is the period in which the film is set.

Other box office hits which have made use of Swahili include Lion King (1994), Mighty Joe Young (1998), George of The Jungle, Madagascar (2006), and Inception (2010).

Star System of Hollywood Movies

The method of creating and promoting film stars in Hollywood movies is known as the star system. Different studios would select talented actors and create roles for them, often inventing new names and even new backgrounds. Stars that went through this star system in Hollywood movies are Cary Grant, Joan Crawford and Rock Hudson. In this system the emphasis is on the image rather than on acting. Although acting, voice, and dancing lessons are apart of the common element of the regimen.

They had rules and restrictions that these new budding actors had to follow. Some of them being, they were not allowed to leave the house without putting any makeup and wearing stylish clothes especially when it comes to female actors. Whereas, the male actors they were expected to be seen in public as gentlemen. The star system of Hollywood movies had morality clauses, which was a common part of the actor’s studio contracts.

Just as the executives, public relations staffs, and the agents worked together with the actor to create a star character, so also they would work together to cover up the incidents or lifestyles which were thought of as disrespectful and which might damage or spoil the image of the actor in the eye of the public.

As a part of this system, performers were not identified in films due to two main reasons. One is that the stage performers were embarrassed to be in films. As initially they were featured in silent film and it was considered pantomime, which is the art of conveying emotions, actions, feelings, etc by gestures without speech. As one of the main skills of actors was their voice, they were afraid that appearing in films would ruin their reputation.

The other reason for the performers not being identified in films was because producers feared that actors would gain more prestige and power and the stars might thus demand more money. There were many incidents that have cause the star system of Hollywood movies to come into existence. Some of the main reasons can be traced from the following incidents.

Thomas Edison and the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) forced the filmmakers to use their equipments and follow their rules, since they owned most of the patents of the motion picture equipments. It was known that the MPPC did promote some actors during that time.

There was gradually a change in the star system of Hollywood movies, and the main reason for this was that the public wanted to know the real name of the actors. Film audiences constantly recognized a number of performers in movies that they liked. As the names of these stars were not disclosed the audience would give them nicknames. Such as the Biograph Girl, Florence Lawrence and many more.

The MPPC was gaining control over the movie industry until Carl Laemmle promoted the first film star. He was independent of the MPPC and used star promotion to fight MPPC control over the film industry. He got hold of Lawrence from Biograph and spread a rumor that she was killed at a car accident but then later combated this rumor and said she was doing fine and would be starring in the up-coming film produced by him.

Another reason that led to the beginning of the star system in Hollywood movies was the development of the film magazines that gave fans knowledge about the actors. Which includes the lifestyles of the actors outside their film roles. Some of the popular magazines of the time were the Motion Picture Story Magazine and Photoplay. They focused on movies stories but later they began to focus more on the actors catering to reader’s tastes.

The standards set by the legitimate theatre encouraged films to follow the star system of the stage. These are some of the main reason of how star system in Hollywood movies came into being.

The Haunted House in Hollywood Movies

People love to be terrorized; not in the true sense of the word, but they do get vicarious pleasure out of watching haunted house pictures as they know that is it not for real and they can get the thrill and at the same time enjoy it to the hilt. Hollywood realizes this fact more than anybody else, and this is the reason there is a major release of a film in the genre of horror and suspense just before Halloween. Halloween is a Celtic festival celebrated with much fanfare around the western world. People decorate their houses to make them look like haunted houses, wear scary costumes and do all sorts of weird makeup to have fun and frolic all night long.

The history of haunted house pictures is as old as the Hollywood itself. After all they know what people like and make it in a manner to scare the shit out of us just to make profit at the box office. People buy the DVD’s of scary movies and enjoy them in their homes. Knowing well that they are secured in the comfort of their home, they keep popcorns by their side and get the trill and excitement that is missing from their daily lives.

Haunted house movies have been there from the beginning. In almost all horror movies, the story revolves around a place that is full of horror and suspense. They have been a hit whenever a good quality horror movie gets released. This is due to our inner nature. We like to be tickled in a strange manner. Though none of us would like to face a ghost or a spirit, if indeed there was one, all of us wish to get vicarious pleasure out of thrill and kick we get when we watch a horror movie. The eerie silence, the creepy atmosphere, the spiders and cob webs, terrifying sounds and shadows, all add to the excitement and terror and greatly increase the impact of the film.

If you look at the history of horror movies, you will find dozens of haunted house pictures that have not only entertained us, but also succeeded in terrifying us in all sorts of ways. The camera angles, the sounds and other special effects are used in such a manner that audiences wish they had not entered the movie theaters. Herein lies the greatness of these pictures.   

The Soloist – A Hollywood Movie That Raises Our Consciousness About Schizophrenia?

I watched the 2009 movie The Soloist with my friends Lisa and Frank on their boat the other week. The movie, based on the book by Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, stars Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Ayers, a cello prodigy who drops out of the Juilliard School of music and becomes homeless in the streets of Los Angeles because of a schizophrenic breakdown.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Steve Lopez, the sensitive reporter who, always on the lookout for an interesting story, befriends Ayers after hearing him play the violin on the streets. The Soloist reminds me of the movie A Beautiful Mind, where brilliant mathematician and economist John Forbes Nash also suffers a similar mental breakdown. (I wonder what he would think of our country’s economic situation now.)

While I enjoyed The Soloist’s music and cinematography, I do not think we can conclude from this movie what made Nathaniel suffer a break in his consciousness and drop out of school. While it was shown that Nathaniel heard voices in his head, the voices were random, senseless, poltergeist-like ramblings that seemed to have little to do with his reality. I am not a psychologist, but from what I know, this film does not seem to portray schizophrenia accurately. If this is indeed so, the film does a disservice to schizophrenics and those who are trying to help them.

Although I do not work in the field of psychology, I studied consciousness enough to offer another way of viewing schizophrenia: a condition where a marked disconnect exists between what one instinctively knows to be true, what is touted as the truth in the outer world, and the inability of the personality to deal with the disconnect.

This idea seems to concur with a dictionary definition of schizophrenia: “A psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought, and conduct.”

After the movie I was reminded of the eye-opening story of Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician who lived from 1818 to 1865. Semmelweis practiced medicine in two clinics in Vienna and came to be known as the “savior of mothers” when he discovered how to drastically cut mortality rates of women giving birth. Perhaps Semmelweis’s story can help illuminate at least some cases of schizophrenia.

Before his discovery, Semmelweis was (quite understandably) severely troubled that the incidence of puerperal fever and the high subsequent mortality rates of women in his two clinics (10-15% in the First Clinic, and 4% in the Second Clinic) were significantly higher than the mortality rates of women giving birth in the streets of Vienna. This fact was known outside the hospitals, causing women to beg to be admitted to the Second Clinic (where midwives worked) rather than the more prestigious First Clinic (where medical students examined cadavers in between births). Some women even preferred to give birth in the streets.

After much study and contemplation, Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of puerperal fever could be reduced ten-fold (from 18% in April 1847 down to 1.2% in July 1847 in the First Clinic) by the practice of hand-washing. But Semmelweis’s hypothesis about the importance of cleanliness was considered by the experts at that time to be extreme, so it was largely ignored and ridiculed. In fact, Semmelweis was dismissed by the hospital and harassed by the medical community.

Though Semmelweis was outraged by the ignorance and outright arrogance of the medical community and wrote open letters to prominent European obstetricians, his colleagues (and even his wife) suspected that Semmelweis was losing his mind. In 1865, he was admitted to a mental asylum where he died only fourteen days later.

I suspect that while Semmelweis was “losing his mind” the voices in his head were not random, poltergeist-like mutterings but the accusations and indictments of his colleagues, including his own unsettled thoughts and feelings of failure, betrayal, and inadequacy in protecting women from whom he termed “irresponsible murderers.” But… years later… voila! Semmelweis became known as a pioneer of antiseptic procedures!

I feel the Semmelweis story can be used as a classic case study. If Semmelweis did not die so suddenly, would he have been diagnosed with schizophrenia and given “medicine” claiming to control it? At which point in an individual’s life challenges does the personality begin to “break down?” What makes one individual cope with extreme challenges when another breaks?

These are interesting questions to ponder and explore–especially in these interesting times when so much on this planet is breaking down. However, this Hollywood movie prefers to attend to silly stereotypes instead.

By the way, my friend Lisa did not care for The Soloist either because it did not give a realistic portrayal of the homeless. But that’s another issue.