Epistemology And Its First World Discontents

The plight of impoverished Africans is all the rage with film people lately. Again!

At The Constant Gardener premiere, Rachel Weisz arrived in a backless teal gown by Narcisco Rodriguez and Cartier earrings. She was followed closely by a handler who let the young journos know that they were to ask only about the movie “or else we’re moving on.” So no one dared to ask about Ms. Weisz’s upcoming nuptials.

But they did ask about Africa. According to Ms. Weisz, while filming The Constant Gardener in Kenya, they lived in tents close to the shanty towns. The Kenyan children would always run right up to the crew; she was asked by one Kenyan mother if, where she comes from, children greet adults they don’t know. Ms. Weisz said, “where I come from, children don’t speak to strangers.”

Ms. Weisz, who runs deep elsewhere, often keeps her thoughts to herself in these settings. It is a successful tactic in her profession.

Co-star Ralph Fiennes followed Ms. Weisz; his eyes popped in a beige suit and a baby blue buttoned shirt. “I wish [America] knew that even with a severe lack of resources there is a fantastic spirit. There are real courage, dignity and joy,” said Mr. Fiennes about his experience filming in Kenya. “You can feel moved by it, the simple moments of human contact—a smile, a greeting.” Ah: language barriers.

The Constant Gardener follows Mr. Fiennes’ character, a career British diplomat, as he researches his activist wife’s death. He discovers disturbing secrets about pharmaceutical industry dealings in Africa.

The film’s auteur, Fernando Meirelles, said that “there’s a lot of films coming out this year about Africa. We’ve really forgotten about this continent.” He told another reporter that his next movie will be about globalization. It will be filmed in seven countries; its working title is Intolerance: The Sequel.

The two co-presidents of Focus Features spoke to the audience before the movie started; one made mention of “our philosopher and epistemologist Donald Rumsfeld.” He scoffed at Rumsfeld’s assessment of the known-knowns, known-unknowns; he felt that Mr. Rumsfeld left out the unknown-knowns. “We know it, but we don’t really know it,” he said in regarding the troubles of Africa.

After the movie, which in some ways is a well-meaning commercial for Amnesty International and depicts the unjust lack of basic health care in Africa, the party immediately headed one block west to Compass where the entire frosted-glass enclosed room of the restaurant was devoted to tiny square desserts and icy sangria; the beverages were served with a “cheers.”

Problems? Africa?

One partygoer exclaimed “this is filled with sex,” as he masticated a chocolate treat topped with a blackberry and gold leafing.

There were banquets full of cold shrimp, mussels, and raw oysters. Diners fed on pasta salads, grilled chicken and mini-mushroom sandwiches.

The tuna tartar on homemade potato chips were particularly popular.

One assistant to a female celebrity said the movie “highlights a different life that no one here knows begins to exist. It presented an interesting viewpoint of third world needs, but I think we need to hear the pharmaceutical side.” Err, we do? She and her friend Sarah both agreed that the movie had “beautiful saturated colors.”

Dirty martinis; champagne poured with an easy hand. The party ended woozily at 1:30 a.m.
—Raegan Johnson