I will show my age a little. I first heard of this movie in 1985. At the time, my neighbors were a couple of South African ex-patriots that starved for anything with a southern Africa flavor. They invited me over to see “The Gods Must Be Crazy” which they had just gotten in video. The movie starts as a basic documentary (about 6 minutes), but after that initial opening, they were dying with laughter, but I wasn’t. I didn’t know of the San people; heck, I hardly knew where Botswana was located and had no idea of the size of the Kalahari or the population of the reason. As I continued to watch, the tale of this darling bushman, Xi and his adventure with the outside world I couldn’t help but start to enjoy the movie.
On the surface, “GODS MUST BE CRAZY”s sounds like a common slapstick filmed in the exotic locations of the African Kalahari. Stopping there, you really haven’t understood the movie. Basically, the film appears as an essay on the collision between man & modern civilization – pristine survival instincts genetically programmed into human civilization that face imminent devastation when they collide with the practices and values of modern society.
The movie contains two parallel stories: one of a western biologist and a professional woman’s misadventures, the other of Xi’s with encountered modern civilization for the first time when he decided throw away an “evil” coke bottle (thrown from an airplane over the desert) to the end of earth. Xi, through his own experience, interpreted the modern world as “people with a lot of magical things” but are “quite illiterate” because they lack basic survival skills (tracking animals, finding water) and they “can’t live without their magical things”.
Maybe it sounds like an okay movie, but why am I writing this review on a site featuring the bush? If you go to Chobe (or for that matter to Linyanti, Moremi or the Okavango Delta) you will either fly over or drive across the edges of the Kalahari. The Kalahari Desert encompasses much of Botswana and is devoid of surface water except for a short rainy season. Despite its harshness, it hosts a range of animals including elephants, zebras and rhinos. The Kalahari people are one of oldest people in the world. The film portrays them as living peaceful lives without any knowledge of the surrounding world. That is no longer true. The world has become smaller. Will the San/bushmen survive? Only time will tell. There are about 50,000 San living in Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe. Most live in a modern way, and their children go to school while the adults work in various jobs. However, about 3,000 San still live in the traditional way, called hunting and gathering, just as their people have lived for about 30,000 years. They live by hunting animals and collecting wild food. They own bows and arrows, bone knives, grass mats, and tanned animal skins, and do not have permanent houses. The Bushman have recently won law suits that would allow them to return; however, the “complete peace and harmony” of the Kalahari people shown in the film is threatened.
I am told that these people were the original inhabitants of the Chobe Region. Maybe, but many of the current residents are not of this people, but rather of Bantu speaking or Batswan origin from further north. The language primarily spoken at Chobe and within Kasane is Setswana and does not have the unique clicking sounds of the San people.
Okay, back to the movie. It is this simple: If you are going to Botswana you must see this movie. The clothing in the movie may be dated, but much of the story still really fits. It is funny and educational. If you never plan to visit Botswana, you still should see this movie because it is funny, simple and well made. By the way, as of writing this review, there are 132 reviews of this movie on Amazon. Of these, 112 give the movie 5 stars and only 3 give it one or two stars. That’s a lot of good reviews … so it’s not just me!
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