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Hollywood Movies That Have Used Swahili

Over the years, the Swahili language has increasingly found its place in the international film industry. While some films simply feature short transcripts of Swahili, there are others which wholly feature Swahili as the main language used in the dialogues between the characters. Below is a look at some of the award winning and critically acclaimed movies that have featured the use of Swahili language in their transcripts.

The Last King of Scotland

While this movie was based on a fictional account of the life of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, the primary language spoken by African characters in The Last King of Scotland was Swahili. However, English is the main language in the film. In the film, Forest Whitaker played Idi Amin and spoke a lot of Swahili when he was speaking to other African characters. During the scenes where Swahili is spoken, English subtitles are provided to enable non-Swahili speakers to understand what the characters are saying. For his role, Forest Whitaker won the Best Leading Actor Award at the 2007 Oscars amongst other accolades.

Nowhere in Africa

Nowhere in Africa is a German film released in 2001 which features a lot of dialogue in the Swahili language. Other languages featured in this film are German and English. This film was adapted from an autobiographical novel of the same name written by Stefanie Zweig. The novel was based on a real life Jewish family which immigrated to Kenya to start farming during the Second World War in order to escape the wrath of the Nazis in Germany. Directed by Caroline link, the film starred Julianne Kohler and Merab Ninidze. This film also received an Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2002, amongst other awards and critical acclaim.

Out of Africa

Out of Africa is an Academy Award-winning film based on the novel of the same name and written by Isak Dinesen – also known as Karen Blixen. In 1985, the film was adapted from the novel by director Sydney Pollack and starred Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen, with Robert Redford playing Denis Finch-Hatton. Because the film was based in Kenya and its main characters were Kenyan settlers, there is a lot of use of the Swahili language featured in the dialogue of the film. This is mainly found in conversations between the main characters and African characters, representing Kenyans who in most cases had not learnt the English language by the 1930s, which is the period in which the film is set.

Other box office hits which have made use of Swahili include Lion King (1994), Mighty Joe Young (1998), George of The Jungle, Madagascar (2006), and Inception (2010).

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