“Xi had never seen anything like this in his life — it looked like water, but was harder than anything else in the world.”
When a Coke bottle is dropped from a plane in the middle of the Kalahari desert, it disrupts the lives of a peaceful tribe of bushmen, so the man who found it (N!xau) volunteers to “drop it off the face of the earth”. Meanwhile, a bumbling biologist (Marius Weyers) attempts to woo a beautiful young teacher (Sandra Prinsloo), whose students have been kidnapped by a band of revolutionary terrorists; it’s up to N!xau to help save the day.
- Native Peoples
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary praises this unexpected “cult favorite” from South Africa as a “surefire crowd-pleaser”, calling it a “rare picture that will appeal to to everyone in the family.” These days, The Gods Must Be Crazy — which was followed by a popular sequel in 1989 — comes across as enjoyable in parts but ultimately uneven; the sequences of slapstick violence between guerrilla rebels and the Burundian government are particularly interminable (and not at all amusing). In addition, knowing as we do now that the Bushmen (who Peary naively — though understandably — believes are simply “playing themselves”) were actually asked to strip their clothes and pretend to live like their “noble” ancestors detracts from the film’s innate charm; we have to work a bit harder to believe in the veracity of their pastoral existence.
With that said, there’s plenty to recommend in The Gods Must Be Crazy, which is certainly one of the best comedies to emerge from Africa. Director Jamie Uys does a particularly fine job highlighting the hypocrisy of “civilization” in contrast with tribal living; the pseudo-scientific anthropological voiceover — though overused in far too many films — works surprisingly well here. In addition, the lead performances by both bumbling Marius Weyers (who Peary likens to Jacques Tati) and N!xau (adorably “innocent”) are marvelous — whenever they’re on-screen, the story sparkles. My favorite scene is probably the one in which N!xau watches sexy Sandra Prinsloo undressing, and we hear his hilariously disparaging thoughts via voiceover (“She was as pale as something that had crawled out of a rotting log…”); this is the best cinematic example I’ve seen so far of how beauty — along with so many other values — is indeed culturally relative.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
Yes, for its status as a long-running cult favorite. Discussed at length in Peary’s Cult Movies 3 (1988).