african masksAfrica speaks Ubangi
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A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden

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Africa Speaks! Ubangi (1930)




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Directed by Walter Futter

Genre: Adventure /Documentary /Romance

The strangest romance ever filmed!

Plot Outline: Explorer Paul Hoefler leads a safari into central Africa and what was then called the Belgian Congo, in the regions inhabited by the Wassara and the famous Ubangi tribes.

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User Comments: Hoefler records an Africa of the past. 

Author: rsoonsa (rsoonsa from Mountain Mesa, California 18 October 2001

In order to bring this important early sound era documentary into proper cultural and natural historical focus, one must bethink of the prodigious changes which have altered the face of Africa and its humanity and fauna during the more than 70 years since the film's production. One can only imagine the reaction of a 1930 audience which viewed the extraordinary events presented and filmed by Colorado-based explorer Paul Hoefler, including the death and meal taking by a family of lions of one of Hoefler's expeditionary native assistants, total decimation of the expedition's surrounding flora by a massive winged horde of locusts, and remarkable animals and people of many varieties. Narrator Lowell Thomas' somewhat casual comments of events which could not have been greeted in such cavalier fashion at the time that they occurred can be off-putting, and his attempts at whimsy consistently fall as flat as the veldt being traversed, but withal the narration provides a raft of historically fascinating data. Hoefler's book of the same title, published shortly after the release of the film, differs insofar as the expedition actually traveled from east to west, rather than the reverse, but for purposes of visual impact actual events were edited in order to produce dramatic action. 

Ubangi is a filmed account of the Davenport-Quigley expedition into the Belgian Congo. As indicated by the title, the narrative concentrates on the unusual tribes indigenous to the region, and on those tribes' customs and rituals. Whenever the audience has had its fill of close-ups of Ubangi men and women, the producers cut away to shots of zebras, elephants and hippo. No pro-ecology film this, Ubangi offers several gruesome shots of Congolese wildlife being tracked down, killed, and skinned. With all this going on, an interlude with a cannibal tribe nearly qualifies as comedy relief! ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide


Oubangui, river, c.700 mi (1,130 km) long, formed on the Congo (Kinshasa)-Central African Republic border, central Africa, by the confluence of the Uele and Bomu rivers. It flows west and south, forming part of the boundary between Congo (Kinshasa) and the Central African Republic and Congo (Kinshasa) and Congo (Brazzaville), before emptying into the Congo River, of which it is the chief northern tributary. The river is navigable to Bangui.

Woman from the banks of the Ubangi River had stretched their lips over wooden platters up to ten inches wide. The bizarre tribal custom had begun centuries earlier to protect their women from pirate slavery by making their women undesirable

Neighboring Peoples: Ngbandi, Ngombe, Gbaya, Mono

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