CHARLES PACKARD

CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY 206Z

MICHAEL McCRATH

JUNE 9th, 2009

 

 

 

EXTRA CREDIT

THEARTRICAL FILM REVIEW

 

OF

 

“THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY”

 

C.A.T. FILMS

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER BOET TROSKIE

WRITTEN, PRODUCED, AND DIRECTED BY JAMIE UYS

 

STARING

MARIUS WEYERS, SANDRA PRINSLOO, AND N!XAU (SAN BUSHMAN)

COPYRIGHT 1980

FOREIGN FILM SOUTH AFRICA, BOTSWANA

 

 

 

GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE FILM

 

            The “Gods Must Be Crazy” is a comedy which the director has compared “The Little People” (San Bushman) foragers in the Kalahari Desert to more civilized world which is shown how crazy people are. Six hundred miles South of where the Bushman live, I think Pretoria in South Africa, the comparison starts.  The movie is like ethnography documentary film, but the director speeds up the scenes when it goes to movie mode which to me makes it more humorous.     

            While the narrator ends his explanation of the civilized and Kalahari 13 minutes into the film, a Caucasian female reporter, Kate Thompson (actress Sandra Prinsloo) gets a gig as a school teacher.  Then a “litter bug” pilot who just finished his coca-cola throws the empty clear bottle that happens to cause chaos after a Bushman, Xi (actor N!XAU) finds it.  He brings it to his band of foragers and they end up using the bottle for many things but then it becomes a problem as everyone wanted the bottle and they start having problems with emotions like jealousy, envy, anger, and violence.  Xi, the leader of “The Evil Thing” decides to take it to the end of the world. 

            Then the plot begins with three separate stories which they all meet by the end of the movie.  First story is the leader of “The Evil Thing”, the Bushman who finds a bottle?  The second story, a female reporter who is met with a male Caucasian microbiologist, Andrew Steyn (actor Marius Weyers) that gets nervous with women.  Then the third story which chaos is caused by a Caucasian male Sam Boga (actor Louw Verwey).  He leads a team of black male guerrillas who start off murdering high government officials north 2000 miles from where the first two stories are.  Sam and the guerrillas kind of randomly get to were Kate is teaching in a village and then kidnaps the children and Kate.   

            Xi gets arrested for poaching on someone else’s land and is bailed out of jail by Andrew and his mechanic and assistant M’pudi (actor Michael Thys) a non black and non Caucasian.  M’pudi was saved by the Bushman many years earlier and was able to speak and understand their language.  The three of them end up saving the children.  However, Andrew doesn’t get recognition as being a hero to impress or let Kate know he was apart of saving the children.  Instead, a safari tour guide, Jack Hind (actor Nic De Jager) gets the credit, as the microbiologist is too humble and nervous still with women.

            The movie gives you a perspective of the cultures from foraging to industrialism and how we can be nutty.  Such as, a scene in the first few minutes of the movie when the narrator explains how complex industrialized society is, the film shows a Caucasian lady starting up her car to pick up her mail, a distance of 40 feet, then going back 40 feet.

    At the end of the movie, bad guys get arrested or killed, Andrew and Kate have a bit more affection toward each other, and Xi walks to somewhere in Africa that looks like the Grand Canyon, the end of the world.  He tosses “The Evil Thing” over and he returns to his family.

 

 

 

 

           

HOW THE FILM RELATES TO THE COURSE

 

            In the movie I enjoyed two experiences and two institutions that are related to the course

When Xi becomes the leader of “The Evil Thing” garbage tosses by the litter bug pilot which the Bushman think is from the Gods.  It destroys their harmony by causing emotional problems with ownership as the Bushman foraging societies do not really own anything and it caused jealousy, hatred, and violence in their primitive culture.

            I look back to the documentary on the Yanamomo who are foragers like the Bushman but they do horticulture and have more communication with the civilized societies and less severe climate to deal with.  Giving shot guns to the Bushman would probably change their culture as it did with the Yanamomo who ended up using the weapons on themselves.  In the movie it was just a simple bottle that caused problems with the Bushman.  

            Then later in the movie there is a comical scene where Andrew’s assistant M’pudi gets board and teaches Xi how to drive.  Thinking back to our class were the Laplanders, a foraging society who chase rain deer, which later were introduced to snowmobiles that destroyed there culture.  Just thinking about the destruction of the Bushman if they where given jeeps.  They would need to be involved with industrial society which would destroy their culture as they would need gas, oil, and mechanics. 

            The institutions of survival without water amazed me.  In class we talked about when the Bushman lack resources in the harsh environment of the Kalahari Desert and can’t find food or water to support the foraging band.  They resort to killing there young kids leaving blanks in age groups.  I didn’t see this in the movie but saw the children evolved by the teaching of the parents and knowing where the tubers were located underneath the ground.  While re-watching the movie I only saw a few toddlers so it made me think that was because of the vary hard environment, and children who can gather are probably not killed. 

            The 2nd institution is punishment when Xi was poaching on private land and freaked out a child who was possibly a transhumant pastoralist and notified the authorities.  Xi gets arrested.  M’pudi who speaks Bushman was the translator for Xi’s in court.  He learned that Xi was going to be locked up for three months and told Andrew that it was a death sentence.  They later bailed Xi out of jail and told the judge that they could use him as an “ecological expert”.  From our class, some cultures have no sense of time or punishment which was repeated in this movie as Xi was in jail for almost two weeks and never touched his jail food

            I did not find issues that were controversial in this movie except for the group of guerrillas lead by Sam Boga.  There was no racism or political problems between the races of people in the movie, and I have no idea why the guerrillas were in dispute.   

             

 

 

 

 

 

THE FILM AS ETHNOGRAPHY

ETHNOGRAPHIC ISSUES RAISED

           

            The movie starts off with explaining “The Little People” or the Bushman and how they live after the wet season in the Kalahari Desert.  It’s dry according to the movie for 9 months of the year.  They show how they survive by digging up tubers and collecting dew drops in the morning on a leaves for water.  A vary harsh environment but “The Little People” seem to be complacent as they do not have laws or punishment, and the kids don’t cry.  They believe that gods only leave good things.

            Also in the movie at the beginning narrating that the Bushman have no sense of ownership and in the desert the hardest things are bone and wood, no rocks to be found.  That setup the idea of a glass bottle being dropped from the sky from the gods which the Bushman believes as they do not know about industrial societies makes sense ethnographically.  Like Xi notices in the movie an animal with circled four legs which was a jeep.  It seems that Xi throughout the movie is normal compared to the other characters after learning outside of this movie and throughout the movie taking inside the ethnography about the Bushman.  The others portrayed in the movie are crazy looking at this with cultural relativism instead of ethnocentrism view.  Now I watch the movie and do not find it as humorous as I did before taking Anthropology 206z.    

 

 

           

THE FILM AS ETHNOGRAPHY

PORTRAYAL OF CHARACTERS

 

            The modern society character, Kate and the bad guys are somewhat stereotypical, but the rest of the characters had their own individualism.  For instance, Kate who plays a helpless woman at first screams just like classical horror movies.  I doubt that a woman, especially from South Africa, would be scarred from the environment that is 600 miles from the city and she would be more prepared to travel by herself.  I believe people would be taught more for survival and dangers in the Kalahari Desert who live in South Africa so I don’t buy that part of the movie, like she should have had an escort before she reached the small village to be picked up by Andrew. 

            Then the stereotype of the bad guys as being stupid for this movie I think is a stereotype.  Like the two guerrillas who keep playing cards with each other and leave toward the end of the movie to get away from site of the leader to continue playing.  Bad guys are usually not stupid and more disciplined to be bad like our current time 21 years after this movie was made, 9/11.      But it makes comedy in the movie.

            Xi, M’pudi, and Andrew seem to portray more as individuals then stereotypes.  I haven’t watched any movies with Bushman but have watched in class documentaries on forager societies and Xi is portrayed well in this movie as natural and unique.

            M’pudi’s character is played kind of like an American “red-neck” being a mechanic and when he got bored taught Xi how to drive in the movie.  Not thinking like a scientist, who he is assisting, how damaging that could be to a culture.