Duma (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Carroll Ballard
Produced by Stacy Cohen
E.K. Gaylord II
Kristin Harms
Hunt Lowry
John Wells
Written by Karen Janszen
Mark St. Germain
from the book by:
Carol Cawthra Hopcraft
Xan Hopcraft
Starring Alexander Michaletos
Eamonn Walker
Campbell Scott
Hope Davis
Music by George Acogny
John Debney
Cinematography Werner Maritz
Edited by T.M. Christopher
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Gaylord Films
Release dates
September 30, 2005
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $994,790 (worldwide)

Duma is a 2005 drama adventure film, directed by Carroll Ballard. It stars Alexander Michaletos, Eamonn Walker, Hope Davis and Campbell Scott. The film is a fictional adaptation loosely based upon the autobiographical book How It Was with Dooms by Carol Cawthra Hopcraft and Xan Hopcraft.


Set in the country of South Africa, the story begins with a cheetah cub being orphaned after his mother was killed by lions. The cub is found on the side of the road by a young boy named Xan (Alexander Michaeletos) and his father Peter (Campbell Scott). Initially reluctant to take in a wild animal, Peter agrees to let Xan take care of the cub. They name him “Duma”, the Swahili name for “cheetah”. Over the years, Duma becomes a part of the family, being closely raised by Xan. As he nears adulthood, Peter and Xan decide to teach Duma how to run by having him chase alongside Peter’s motorcycle, which can barely keep up with him. But with Duma almost fully grown, to Xan’s dismay, his father tells him that it is time to take his friend to his real home before he grows too old to survive in his native habitat. His father says to Xan, “Duma has to live the life he was born to – or he’ll never be fully alive.”

Xan reluctantly agrees, but their plans must be put on hold when his father suddenly falls ill and dies and Xan and his mother (Hope Davis) must move to Johannesburg. Duma comes with them, which wreaks havoc on their life in the city. Xan’s aunt is terrified of Duma, who likes to sneak up and surprise her, and when Duma escapes and pays a disastrous visit to Xan’s school, the two of them must flee the city to keep Duma from being put into captivity. Not knowing where to go, Xan gets an idea – he’ll carry out the plan his dad had outlined, taking Duma home in the neighbouring country of Botswana, over the scorching Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, through the Okavango Delta and into the Erongo Mountains.

Xan begins to drive to his destination in his father’s old motorcycle, with Duma in the sidecar. After running out of fuel and water in the grasslands, they find some shade underneath a crashed airplane. There, they are confronted by Ripkuna (Eamonn Walker), a mysterious drifter on a journey of his own. While Xan isn’t at all that sure he can trust Rip, he agrees to go with him. Xan manages to turn the immobile motorcycle into a desert sailboat out of a parachute from the plane wreck, and Xan, Rip and Duma are on their way again, until they encounter the untraversable scrub brush of the Kalahari Desert and must abandon the motorcycle. While trying to find shelter, Rip is trapped in an abandoned diamond mine by a cave in, and Xan decides to leave him, as he suspects that he has been leading him to town instead of the jungle to sell Duma and collect a reward for finding him. However, when Duma is caught in a trap and Xan is knocked unconscious by a boar, Rip rescues both of them, having escaped the mine through a ventilation shaft.

Soon, they reach the Okavango Delta, where Xan is set upon by the deadly wildlife and the churning rapids of the Thamalakane River, but it’s too late for him to turn back now. Xan, Rip and Duma press through the Okavango, and finally the Erongo Mountains, on the border of Botswana and Namibia are in sight. However, once they get there, Xan is suddenly set upon by a swarm of tsetse flies. To protect him from their lethal bite, Rip huddles over Xan and is bitten by hundreds of flies. He soon develops sleeping sickness, and Xan takes him to a nearby village where he can be cared for. Later that night, outside the village, Duma is out on his own and starts calling out into the mountains. Duma finds another cheetah calling to him, and they bond rather quickly. It is never explained whether this is another male cheetah, or is in fact one of Duma's siblings. Xan hears this activity, and realizes that this is where he and Duma must part. Xan says goodbye to Duma, and Duma comes to Xan and says a final goodbye, and goes back to play with his new friend. Then Xan goes back to the village to Rip. Before the credits, it shows Xan being reunited with his mother and the film ends.



The film was shot mostly in South Africa, though some of the film is set in neighbouring Botswana.[1]

One of the five cheetahs that stars in the film resided in Kragga Kamma Game Park in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa until its death in November 2011.

There were five adult cheetahs: Anthony, Azaro, Nikita, Sasha, and Savannah, along with one Cheetah cub: Sheba.


Duma had tested badly and Warner Bros. planned to not release this film in the United States theatrically, but Scott Foundas wrote a rave review for the film in Variety and it led Warner Bros to reconsider.[2] Warner Bros. finally gave Duma a limited theatrical release in the US.[3] The film made $870,067 at the North American box office and $124,723 in other territories, making its worldwide box office total $994,790, making it a failure at the box office.[4]


Duma went on receiving very positive reviews from critics; the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 93% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 57 reviews;[5] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 82 out of 100, based on 21 reviews.[6]


  1. ^ "Duma (2005): About This Film". Hollywood Jesus. April 23, 2005. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  2. ^ Greenberg, James (July 31, 2005). "Carroll Ballard's Second Chance". The New York Times. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ McClintock, Pamela (September 22, 2005). "Inside Move: 'Duma' producer pays pic's way to Gotham". Variety (Reed Business Information). Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Duma (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Duma (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Duma reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 10, 2010. 

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