The film Lost in Africa saw its U.S. premiere in Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at UC Davis’ Mondavi Center last Saturday evening. The Mondavi Center event was organized in conjunction with the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Actress Connie Nielsen was in attendance to provide a Q&A prior to the screening as well as taking part in a panel discussion after the film.
Lost in Africa is a Danish film (Kidnappet) produced by Vibeke Windelov and Karoline Leth under the production of SF Film Production ApS.
The film is about Simon, an 11-year-old boy who visits his birthplace in Nairobi, Kenya during a trip with his mother Susanne (played by Nielsen). Simon naively finds his way to the giant slum of Kibera and gets lost in the complex network of torn down shacks and polluted streets. Despite being born in Kenya, Simon is automatically deemed “foreign” through his language and outward demeanor. As Simon tries to find his way out of the slums, he finds himself being hunted down for reward money.
Although the event was free to the public, tickets for the screening of Lost in Africa were reserved at an extremely high demand. Nielsen is most noted for her role as Princess Lucilla in the Academy-Award nominated film Gladiator and has appeared in several episodes of “Law and Order: Special Victim’s Unit.”
However, the event was not meant to glorify the Hollywood culture but to bring deeper issues of poverty, race, political corruption and environmental sustainability to the forefront.
Lost in Africa reveals the discrepancies between culture, language and values that are compromised during circumstances of poverty and desperation. Although the narrative story of Simon and the characters in the film sends an overall uplifting message, images of pollution and detrimental living conditions spark an undeniable emotional response. It’s the realization that a Kibera really exists.
After the showing of the film, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, Jim Wunderman, said the film touched him emotionally.
“I think the film was gripping. It was definitely hard to moderate a panel after that,” Wunderman said. “After it was over, it was just so emotional and powerful, really. I would hope that students here at Davis would pay attention to this film and films like it that explore areas that may not be on the front burner of American culture.”
During the post-screening panel discussion, Nielsen spoke to audiences about her personal experiences in Kibera and how it inspired her to start the Human Needs Project. The project aims to provide the residents of Kibera access to clean water and educational programs to help them improve their lives on a long-term basis. Nielsen hopes that the program will inspire the younger generation to take a stand.
“I think awareness and knowing who you are is truly important,” Nielsen said. “It is the deep truth about what is moving inside of you and how you can engage yourself and the world with what they believe is best. It’s very important; that is the biggest challenge for any young person. Nothing is hopeless. I believe that there is no moment that there is no hope.”
For more information on the film, visit http://www.dfi.dk/ and http://www.humanneedsproject.org for more information about The Human Needs Project.
UYEN CAO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.