When Hollywood does Africa, there’s little in the romance and love department, unless it’s about Karin Blixen making ill-fated choices (in white colonial men) or some random family who move to Africa and fall in love with the land … and the flame trees (you know the list I’m thinking about). When a white do-gooder escapee from European/British stultification falls for a gorgeous Ugandan–she’s going to get chopped up by Idi. If ever we see black characters falling in love, their romantic world is overshadowed by various external crisis—warlords, corrupt politicians, locusts, famine, war (then a nice white aid worker helps one kid). Love is rarely explored in terms of the emotional and existential crises that love between two white people from America or Europe is explored, or in a silly, light-hearted way that focuses on the couple’s respective families and friends behaving badly (as in the style of, say, ‘Love Jones’ or the remake of ‘About Last Night’).
There are other film critics who are intellectual–like Stuart Klawans at The Nation, Armond White (he was good once) and Stanley Kaufmann at The New Republic–but they lacked Ebert’s accessibility and heart. (Ebert, by the way, had an acute sense of the racial political economy in US cinema, as Richard Prince blogged at The Root). Ebert, who traveled to Apartheid South Africa as a young man, also reviewed a lot of African films.