Fair’s superb social history of cinema in Tanzania is rich with keen insights into urban life in East Africa throughout the twentieth century. From the late 1910s onward, Tanzania had more cinemas than any other country in Africa, except South Africa, as well as a less segregated film-going experience, which allowed whites, Africans, and South Asians to attend the same shows. Fair recounts efforts by South Asian businesspeople to import films from India in the early twentieth century, and later from the entire world, to show on Tanzanian screens. By the 1950s, eight movie theaters catered to 16,000 people a week in the capital, Dar es Salaam, and became the city’s center of social and cultural life. Indian films, with their singing and dancing, were long local favorites, although American westerns were popular, as well. In the 1970s, blaxploitation movies, such as Shaft and Hell Up in Harlem, arrived and began to shape the fashion tastes of the young. Fair’s impressive versatility means she is equally at ease discussing midcentury international film distribution networks as she is explaining the local appeal of obscure Indian movies.
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