04 December 2012

The Gods Must be Crazy (starring N!xau, Marius Weyers and Sandra Prinsloo)

Although we've had this DVD for many years, it had not appealed to me and I had never seen it. Until last Sunday when some teenage friends came over, and chose this as their film of the evening.  I sat down to watch the beginning.. and soon found myself fascinated, drawn into the story.

The opening describes an idyllic society, where 'attachment parenting' is the norm, children get along, and there are no words for negative emotions such as anger or jealousy. One day a man from this society comes across an empty coke bottle, discarded from a small aeroplane.  They assume it must have been sent by the gods. At first people find constructive uses of the bottle - as a rolling pin, or a hammer, or for curing snakeskins...  but gradually, because there is only one, they start to fight, and experience anger and violence for the first time.

So after attempting in vain to get rid of it, Xi one of the bushmen, decides to walk to the ends of the earth to return it to the gods - a distance which he thinks could take as much as twenty days...

Meanwhile a young and attractive teacher (Sandra Prinsloo) is on her way to Botswana, and is going to be met by a rather klutzy scientist (Marius Weyers) in an ancient truck.

Meanwhile again, some guerillas try to assassinate the president. When they are afraid that they might be caught, they take some small children hostage

All these stories run alongside each other. Xi (played brilliantly by a real bushman called N!xau)  gradually meets people in so-called 'civilized society', as he travels to find the gods. It's all very confusing for him, and difficult to deal with - leading to some amusing moments, although the main humour, some of it almost slapstick, comes from the problems driving an ancient truck which will probably give up working altogether if it's ever allowed to stop.

The story could have been condescending, but the film really pokes fun at supposedly advanced civilization. The gentle bushman society is portrayed as ideal, and Xi adjusts well as he learns about life outside his home and the ways of white people.

I was surprised at how much I liked this film. It was very well done despite having been made on quite a low budget; it was a surprise hit in 1980, apparently.

There's a fascinating 'extra' on the DVD, interviewing some of the real bushmen actors - who were rather different from the people they portrayed, much happier about beginning to adopt technology and other western innovations.

The rating is PG in both US and UK; there's some minor bad language in appropriate places which might offend some parents, and also several shots of people in underwear, in awkward and amusing situations.  Unlikely to be of interest to anyone under the age of about ten or eleven.

Note that the DVD link to Amazon is for the dual edition including the sequel to this film. It's currently unavailable new in the US, so much better value from the UK (but note that not all US DVD players will play UK DVDs).

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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