The air up there

Not far from Zanzibar, Mt. Kilimanjaro provides a pleasant diversion for nonclimbers

Claire Joseph

David Breashears, director of the recent IMAX hit “Everest,” is scaling new heights.

This time around, the director leads us to Tanzania for “Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa,” starring average white people who climb Africa’s tallest mountain with an ease that was absent in the more ominous “Everest.”

Breashears’ film is an exquisitely shot epic, proving once again that nobody can capture the wonders of the world quite like IMAX’s 3-D image-creating cameras. The film documents a Chagga guide who leads four Westerners and a local villager to the top of Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Although aesthetically pleasing, “Kilimanjaro” continues to facilitate the IMAX idea that the non-Western world is a playground for whites in search of an adventure.

The motley group of explorers consists of a Dutch woman, three people from the United Kingdom and a young Tanzanian boy. Here’s another film where Westerners outnumber the locals, creating more Westernized idealism in Africa.

This idealism is heightened in the fact that none of these “climbers” are actual climbers.

One of the Brits is a writer who mainly wants to climb because she’s been writing about climbing mountains for years, but has never climbed one herself. Never climbed a mountain? That doesn’t seem to be a problem on Kilimanjaro.

So often in Western cinema, Africa is simplified down to a homogenous fantasy world where people go on safaris and vacations. Films such as “Out of Africa” and “The African Queen” exploit this trend nicely.

There is a point in “Kilimanjaro,” for example, where one of the climbers, a 12-year-old British girl, compares the terrain to what she calls “Dr. Seuss Land.” A bit colonialist, huh?

Luckily for these naive travelers, they are in the capable hands of a guide who boasts that he has made the Kilimanjaro climb at least 250 times. The notion of the helpful guide reassures Westerners that not only are their exploitations profitable but they will be aided and supported by happy natives.

IMAX once again provides viewers with what they want to see, which is an Africa filled with beautiful landscapes and stunning vistas that they can consume like Raisinettes.