In an apparent swipe at "Out of Africa," the Oscar-winning movie that has sparked a tourist boom in his country, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi today excoriated foreign filmmakers who remind Kenyans of the "humiliation" of colonial rule.
"This is not entertainment and we are not amused. The days when Africa was regarded as a dark continent are long gone," said Moi, in remarks here at a Kenya Press Club luncheon.
Although he did not mention the film by name, Moi's pointed criticism left little doubt that he was referring to Sydney Pollack's romantic epic, set in colonial Kenya, about the loves and losses of Danish writer Karen Blixen, who used the pen name Isak Dinesen.
The film, while garnering seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and drawing large audiences in the United States, Europe and Australia, has not been popular among Kenyans.
In a country that has been independent for 22 years, where many still harbor resentful memories of British colonial rule, "Out of Africa's" depiction of a doomed love affair between literary foreigners struck many Kenyans as dull and irrelevant. Local newspapers objected to African actors appearing "half-naked" on the screen. Some critics called the film "patronizing."
It ran for four weeks at Nairobi's fanciest movie theater, the 20th-Century Cinema, playing to a house often two-thirds empty. The largest crowd, which was mostly white, turned out for a charity premiere on Jan. 31.
The movie, much of which was filmed in the tony Nairobi suburb of Karen and used hundreds of Kenyans as extras, is now playing at a local drive-in.
"Those who come to make their films in our country, taking advantage of our beautiful scenery, must bear in mind that we are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage," said Moi, adding that he would allow filmmakers in the country in the future if they showed "respect for the dignity of our people."
Tour operators say "Out of Africa" has generated record off-season (April through June) bookings at hotels and safari parks around the country.
"We have had better advance bookings than ever before," said a spokesman for United Touring Co., Kenya's largest tour operator.
A half-million foreign tourists came to Kenya last year. After coffee and tea growing, tourism is the country's third most important industry.