Faculty member’s book examines Hollywood’s portrayal of modern Africa

Penn State Greater Allegheny Associate Professor of English Mary Ellen Higgins’ book, “Hollywood’s Africa after 1994,” recently was released. The book is a result of research funded by a research development grant from Penn State Greater Allegheny in 2007.

The book provides analyses by academics and activists in the fields of African studies, English, film and media studies, international relations, and sociology across continents. The book is designed as a resource for those who seek new and varied approaches to films about Africa.

“My interest was initially sparked by the release of several films set in Africa after 2000, such as ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ‘Hotel Rwanda,’ ‘Blood Diamond,’ ‘The Last King of Scotland,’ ‘The Constant Gardener,’ ‘Invictus’ and ‘District 9.’ A number of these films and their actors received accolades at the Academy Awards and elsewhere,” Higgins said. "I presented my concerns about the representation of Africans in these films at international conferences, and had great conversations with wonderful scholars such as Harry Garuba at the University of Cape Town, Bennetta Jules-Rosette at University of California San Diego, and Margaret Higonnet at University of Connecticut. The project developed from there.”

“One of the great pleasures in putting together this volume has been working on the topic of Hollywood's Africa with esteemed scholars across disciplines in various countries, especially colleagues who work in African universities,” said Higgins.

Higgins hopes to use the book in teaching future courses. She currently is working on another book, this time a single-authored book, titled, "African Cinema and Human Rights." She hopes that people interested in the lives of Africans will see more African films.