The Gods Must Be Crazy
||This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page.
|The Gods Must Be Crazy|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jamie Uys|
|Produced by||Jamie Uys|
|Written by||Jamie Uys|
|Narrated by||Paddy O'Byrne|
|Music by||John Boshoff|
|Editing by||Stanford C. Allen
|Distributed by||Ster Kinekor (SA):77
>20th Century Fox (US)
|Running time||109 minutes|
The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 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 of films. 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 although three unofficial sequels were produced in Hong Kong starring Nǃxau.
The film is a collision of three separate stories — the journey of a Ju/'hoansi Bushman to the end of the earth to get rid of a glass bottle, the romance between a bumbling scientist and a school teacher, and a band of guerrillas on the run.
Xi and his tribe of Bushmen relatives 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 unfulfilled wants. One day, a glass bottle is thrown out of an aeroplane and falls to earth unbroken. Initially, this strange artifact seems to be another boon 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. This exposes the tribe to a hitherto unknown phenomenon, property, and they soon find themselves experiencing things they never had before: jealousy, envy, anger, hatred, and even violence.
Since it has caused the tribe unhappiness on two occasions, Xi decides that the glass bottle is an evil thing and must be thrown off of the edge of the world. He sets out alone on his quest and encounters Western civilization for the first time. The film presents an interpretation of civilization as viewed through Xi's perceptions.
There are also plot lines about shy biologist Andrew Steyn who is studying the local animals (which, because of his nervousness around women, he once describes as "manure-collecting"); the newly hired village school teacher, a former newspaper reporter named Kate Thompson; and some guerrillas led by Sam Boga, who are being pursued by government troops after an unsuccessful attempt to massacre the Cabinet of "Barani" and the president. Also taking a share of the limelight is Steyn's Land Rover, dubbed the Antichrist (also "Son of a Mlakka") by his assistant and mechanic, M'pudi. Also part of the chaos is an impudent safari tour guide named Jack Hind, who has designs on Thompson and often steals Steyn's thunder.
Xi happens upon a farm and, being hungry as well as oblivious to the concept of ownership, shoots a goat with a tranquilizer arrow. For this he is arrested and jailed for stealing livestock. M'pudi, who lived with the Bushmen for a long time and speaks Xi's language, realizes that Xi will die in the alien environment of a prison cell, and he and Steyn manage to hire Xi as a tracker for the 11 remaining weeks of his prison sentence. Meanwhile, the guerrillas invade the school where Kate teaches and use her and her pupils as human shields for their escape by foot to the neighboring country and threaten to kill the children if they see one soldier. 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 to the edge of the world, 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 (this scene was filmed at God's Window in Eastern Transvaal, South Africa (now Mpumalanga), at the edge of the escarpment between the Highveld and Lowveld of South Africa). Xi then returns to his tribe and a warm welcome from his family.
- N!xau as Xi, a Sho of the Kalahari Desert
- Marius Weyers as Andrew Steyn, a shy and bumbling biologist who is studying the local animals
- Sandra Prinsloo as Kate Thompson, a village school teacher and a former newspaper reporter
- Michael Thys as M'Pudi ( voiced by Pip Freedman )
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.: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.: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.
Reaction and controversy
The portrayal of Xi as incapable of understanding the gods was viewed as insulting by some, including the government of Trinidad and Tobago, which consequently banned the film. However, the film's many fans[who?] believe that it is exactly the opposite, a send-up of so-called civilization and a condemnation of racism with Xi as the hero. Xi's life is portrayed as the norm, while the other peoples are portrayed as strange. The film's progression from documentary style to comedy to the fantastical ending adds its allegorical point.
Some of the debate centered on Xi's reaction to the first white people he met: he assumed they were gods since they looked and acted so strangely (he had only known other Sho before), had road vehicles (which he also had never seen before), and were comparatively huge. However, within minutes he began doubting they were gods. The second film clearly shows Xi's greater understanding as he tells the children about the people he had met: "Heavy people… who seem to know some magic that can make things move," but are "not very bright, because they can't survive without their magic contrivances".
The film's depictions of the Bushmen, even if they were superficially accurate in the decades before the rapid social changes of the 1970s and 1980s, are no longer accurate. The DVD's special feature "Journey to Nyae Nyae" (N!xau's homeland in northeastern Namibia), filmed in 2003, demonstrates this.
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.:186
- Pfaff, Françoise (2004). Focus on African Films. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21668-0.
- Gugler, Josef (2003). African Film: Re-imagining a Continent. Indiana University Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-253-21643-5. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Reviews for The Gods Must Be Crazy". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2010-06-13.
- Lee, Richard (2003). The Dobe Ju/'hoansi. Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology (3rd ed.). Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN 0-03-032284-7.
- The Gods Must Be Crazy at AllRovi
- The Gods Must Be Crazy full episode at Crackle
- The Gods Must Be Crazy film trailers at FilmAndTVFavourites.com
- The Gods Must Be Crazy full episode at Hulu
- The Gods Must Be Crazy at the Internet Movie Database
- Box office information at The Numbers
- The Gods Must Be Crazy at Rotten Tomatoes