E-mail us: amdb@ucalgary.ca

Production still for Story of Bamba, National Archives (College Park, U.S.), DM-H-HFF-10a-4313


  • NWDNM(m)-200-HF-8 (Source: https://catalog.archives.gov/id/94800)

Date produced: 1939


Ray L. Garner

Virginia Garner






1000 ft





Sound Notes:



ACL Ten Best 1939 - Honorable Mention Special Class


"The Story of Bamba is a drama filmed in Africa by Ray L. Garner for the Harmon Foundation in New York. This reviewer calls the production a film drama advisedly, for, although it is made as a report of the medical work of a missionary group in Africa, the picture is, in itself, an entertaining photoplay. The boy, Bamba, is the nephew of the tribal witch doctor who cures sickness with his fetishes. Bamba is to become the medicine man's successor, but he falls ill with the fever and is deserted by the tribe when they hurriedly flee their village to rid themselves of a plague. Rescued and cured by the native representative of the missionary medical center, Bamba is sent to school so that he too, can cure in the white man's way. An adult, he returns to his own tribe, where he meets and finally overcomes the resistance of his uncle. Thus, the plot unfolds clearly and entertainingly, yet the story does not interfere with a complete exposition of the medical work of missionaries. Skillful handling of native actors is apparent in every scene, for there is scarcely an unconvincing piece of business in the whole film. Camera treatment is matter of fact but adequate." Movie Makers, Dec. 1939, 637.


This film is one of ten produced by the Garners as part of the Africa Motion Picture Project of 1938, which was funded by church denominations and the Harmon Foundation (Movie Makers, Nov. 1939, 559).

The Garners discuss the film and their African expedition in "African Expedients" (Movie Makers, Feb. 1940, 64, 80-82). See also, Virginia Garner, Images Out of Africa: The Virginia Garner Diaries of the Africa Motion Picture Project, University Press of America, 2011.


  • Lower Congo, Africa (Filming)






Harmon Foundation Collection, National Archives (College Park, U.S.)


  • Screened by the Central Christian Church in 1939: San Antonio, TX

Viewing Notes:

"DRAMATIZED DOCUMENTARY: About a 12-year-old African boy of the Bakongo Tribe in the Belgian Congo who is befriended by a mission doctor, becomes a Christian medical worker and returns to his village as a mission medical teacher. Reel 1: Bamba goes hunting with friends, and he snares a monkey. His uncle teaches him to be a fetish doctor. An epidemic strikes the village and Bamba becomes ill. The fetish doctor says that the village must move to a "luckier" location. Reel 2: Missionary doctors arrive, but fetish doctor tells villagers to flee because missionaries are evil spirits. The village nearly deserted, missionaries find Bamba and take him to mission where he survives, grows to be medical missionary and returns to his village. His uncle curses him and his medicine. Reel 3: Bamba gets his diploma, opens dispensary in his home village and aids the sick, including his uncle who then embraces Christianity." Via National Archives.