Thursday, October 10, 2013

Last Safari (2013) Hamptons Film Festival 2013

Let me get this out of the way at the start- you MUST see The Last Safari on as big a screen as possible. It doesn't matter what you think of the rest of the film the images will haunt you especially if you can see them really BIG. Simply put the images alone make this worth the price of admission. Go see it.

I could leave it there but I won't.

The Last Safari is the story of what happens when photojournalist Elizabeth L Gilbert returns to Africa with a slide show presentation of the photos that make up her books Broken Spears and Tribes of the Great Rift Valley. The idea is to go back and show them to the people who are in the photos and live in the areas where she took the pictures a decade earlier. Traveling with a film crew and technicians to make the slide show work she heads off into the Great Rift Valley. Along the way she encounters, old friends, various dangers (lions, floods) and has a chance to reconnect with the people and the land she loves.

As spectacle and a showcase for amazing images this film is as good as it gets. Seeing Gilbert's photos larger than life is awesome in the truest sense of the word. Equally awesome are the shots of the people and places that they encounter. The Massai ceremonies are somewhere beyond words. If you can see this on a big screen do so, trust me on this your eyes will thank you.

Beyond the visuals the film is not quite as amazing. This isn't so say that the rest is bad, only that the visual wonders over power everything else in the film.

Part of the problem is the organization of the film. The film is clearly about Gilbert, however the film early on takes great pains to explain who everyone is including Matt Goldman her Brooklyn based boyfriend and the director of the film, Japheson Lekupe a long time friend and photographer who joins them and Kyalo the projectionist and resident cut up. It sets everyone up as important only to then lose sight of them for long periods depending on what is happening. While I don't mind not getting to know them, I'm left to wonder if they all are introduced as if they will have some importance only to be pushed into the background.

The other problem for me is that the film's tone portrays Gilbert much too glowingly. She is put high on a pedestal for reasons I'm not quite clear on. I understand the film was made by her boyfriend, but at the same time it makes things less objective than they should be.

Ultimately its quibbling and the result of nothing really able to live up to the marvelous images. I simple wanted everything to be as glorious as what we see. Do yourself a favor and ignore my quibbles and just go see the film.

Both director Goldman and the subject of the film will be appearing at the Hampton's Film Festival screenings and conducting Q&As on Sunday the 13th at the East Hampton Cinema and on Monday the 14th at 515 at the Sag Harbor Cinemas. For more information go to the Hamptons Film Festival Website.

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