Growing up is best done off-camera.
In Sylvia Caminer's "Tanzania: A Journey Within," recent college grad Kristen Kenney has her embarrassingly obvious revelations about the developing world captured for public consumption in this gorgeously photographed but inane and superficial vacation video masquerading as a documentary.
Kenney visits East Africa with her friend Venance Ndibalema, whose unstable childhood took him from village to village in rural Tanzania. After a couple of tourist excursions — safari and Mt. Kilimanjaro — the college pals visit Ndibalema's friends and family. Despite her increasing familiarity with deprivation as daily life, Kenney blathers about her search for the "ideal Africa" — the idyllic, "primitive" one she has long romanticized — and spouts generalizations about the religious beliefs of people she's known for just a few hours.
Seemingly in a different film, Ndibalema shares somber stories of his mother's death from AIDS. But the tales of family tragedy don't render him any more compelling as a documentary subject, largely because the aspiring teacher couches all his experiences in self-helpy, "Chicken Soup for the Soul" language.
At some point, the affable Ndibalema seems to lose patience with Kenney, gently but frequently chiding his friend for her naiveté. Who can blame him?
Watching Kenney struggle with her white guilt offers its own irritations. It's like suffering several mosquito bites at once.
"Tanzania: A Journey Within"
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Playing: At Laemmle's NoHo 7, North HollywoodCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun