The Gods Must Be Crazy

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The Gods Must Be Crazy
Gods must be crazyposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jamie Uys
Produced by Jamie Uys
Written by Jamie Uys
Narrated by Paddy O'Byrne
Starring Nǃxau
Marius Weyers
Sandra Prinsloo
Louw Verwey
Michael Thys
Music by John Boshoff
Cinematography Buster Reynolds
Robert Lewis
Editing by Stanford C. Allen
Jamie Uys
Distributed by Ster Kinekor (SA)[1]:77
20th Century Fox (US)
Release dates
  • 10 September 1980 (1980-09-10) (South Africa)
  • 9 July 1984 (1984-07-09) (US: Limited)
  • 13 July 1984 (1984-07-13)
Running time 109 minutes
Country South Africa
Language English
Budget $5 million[2]
Box office $34,331,783

The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 South African comedy film written and directed by Jamie Uys. Originally released in 1980, the film is the first in The Gods Must Be Crazy series. Set in Botswana, it tells the story of Xi, a Sho of the Kalahari Desert (played by Namibian San farmer Nǃxau) whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond. The film is followed by one official sequel and three unofficial sequels produced in Hong Kong.


Xi and his San tribe are "living well off the land" in the Kalahari Desert. They are happy because the gods have provided plenty of everything, and no one in the tribe has any wants. One day, a Coca-Cola bottle is thrown out of an airplane and falls to earth unbroken. Initially, this strange artifact seems to be another "present" from the gods — Xi's people find many uses for it. But unlike anything that they have had before, there is only one glass bottle to go around. They soon find themselves experiencing envy, anger, and even violence.

Since it has caused the tribe unhappiness, Xi decides that the bottle is an evil thing and must be thrown off of the edge of the world. He sets out on his quest and encounters a diverse group of people: biologist Andrew Steyn, who is studying the local animals; Kate Thompson, the newly hired village school teacher; a band of guerrillas led by Sam Boga, who are being pursued by government troops after an unsuccessful attack; a safari tour guide named Jack Hind; and Steyn's assistant and mechanic, M'pudi.

Xi happens upon a farm and, being hungry, shoots a goat with a tranquilizer arrow. He is arrested and jailed for stealing livestock. M'pudi, who lived with the San and speaks Xi's language, realizes that Xi will die in prison, and he and Steyn manage to hire Xi as a tracker for the remainder of his prison sentence. Meanwhile, the guerrillas invade Kate's school and take her and her pupils as human shields for their escape to the neighbouring country. Steyn, M'pudi, and Xi, who are unwittingly observing the local wildlife within the terrorists' chosen path, manage to immobilize the guerrillas as they are passing by and save Kate and the children. Steyn allows Xi to leave to continue his quest, and subsequently he and Kate become romantically involved.

Xi eventually finds himself at the top of a cliff with a solid layer of low-lying clouds obscuring the landscape below. This convinces Xi that he has reached the edge of the world, and he throws the bottle off the cliff. Xi then returns to his tribe and a warm welcome from his family.



The Gods Must Be Crazy was released in South Africa in 1980 by Ster Kinekor Pictures; it became a box-office record breaker in that country.[1]:77 For the film's overseas release, the original Afrikaans dialogue was dubbed into English, and voiceover work was provided for !Kung and Tswana lines.[1]:76 At the time, it broke all box office records in Japan and it broke all box office records for a foreign film in the United States.

In mid-November 1986, The Gods Must Be Crazy was released on videocassette in the U.S. by CBS/Fox[3] through their Playhouse Video label.[4]


Based on nineteen reviews, The Gods Must Be Crazy has carried a 95% "Fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes.[5] Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, and said, in his conclusion, that "It might be easy to make a farce about screwball happenings in the desert, but it's a lot harder to create a funny interaction between nature and human nature. This movie's a nice little treasure".[6]


Despite the film's having grossed over $100 million worldwide, Nǃxau reportedly earned less than $2,000 for his starring role. Before his death, Uys supplemented this with an additional $20,000 as well as a monthly stipend.[7]:186


  1. ^ a b c Pfaff, Françoise (2004). Focus on African Films. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21668-0. 
  2. ^ Gugler, Josef (2003). African Film: Re-imagining a Continent. Indiana University Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-253-21643-5. Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  3. ^ Hunt, Dennis (14 November 1986). "'Gods Must Be Crazy' Drops Into Video Stores; 'SpaceCamp' Is Set for Modest Blast-Off" (Registration required to read article). Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). p. K18. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  4. ^ James, Caryn (14 July 1987). "The Gods Must Be Crazy yea(1981): Home Videos; Sophisticated Silliness". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  5. ^ "Reviews for The Gods Must Be Crazy". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  6. ^ "The Gods Must Be Crazy Movie Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  7. ^ Lee, Richard (2003). The Dobe Ju/'hoansi. Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology (3rd ed.). Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN 0-03-032284-7. 

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