The eye of Africa – The Film Pioneer Hans Schomburgk

NDR/ARTE 90 Minutes
on Air: Autumn 2019

The documentary tells the fascinating story of the film pioneer Hans Schomburgk, who was the first film maker to capture the breathtaking beauty of Africa with the movie camera. A visually stunning and overwhelming journey from the past to the present. The original movies of Schomburgk carry us off into mysterious, back then widely unexplored regions and are interwoven with opulent images of today’s Africa, to capture the rapid transformation, but also the indestructible beauty of the entire continent.

For the first time the film dwells on the life and work of Hans Schomburgk – who was the first to travel the black continent with a camera, who turned from the life of an adventurer and big game hunter to the life of a nature lover and philanthropist, and who eventually swapped his rifle with a camera. Through original footage the documentary brings the important life’s work out of the shadows and searches, 100 years later, for cinematographic traces of Schomburgk’s Africa; with breathtaking images of an overwhelming landscape. And epic and philosophical exploration of what is left of the last great secrets that Schomburgk once discovered. Through Schomburgk’s eyes we open up half a century of African history and search with impressive images for evidence of this fascinating past.

Schomburgk, a native of Hamburg, shot his first movies on African soil in 1913/1914. For the first time he showed the African living environment and its unique flora and fauna to a large European audience.
The film pioneer shaped with his images from the former French, German and English colonies his contemporaries’ perception of Africa. His movies carried the viewers off into a mysterious but slowly disappearing world. Long before Bernhard Grzimek, Heinz Sielmann or Jaques Perrin Schomburgk showed his audiences the African flora and fauna in their natural environment as well as the people of Africa who seemed to be hardly influenced by Western civilization at that point. For almost 50 years he documents with his camera the rapid transformations on the continent. Disappointed by the destruction of the lifeworlds he had once found, in 1958 he bids farewell for good to the beloved continent with his film “Mein Abschied von Africa” (My Farewell to Africa). Since then, his “paradise” can only be entered via his movies.