A Far Off Place

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A Far Off Place
Faroffplace.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMikael Salomon
Screenplay byRobert Caswell
Jonathan Hensleigh
Sally Robinson
Based onA Story Like the Wind and A Far Off Place
by Laurens van der Post
Produced byEva Monley
Elaine Sperber
Starring
CinematographyJuan Ruiz Anchía
Edited byRay Lovejoy
Music byJames Horner
Production
companies
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • March 12, 1993 (1993-03-12)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Box office$12.9 million[1]

A Far Off Place (aka Far Off Place and Kalahari) is a 1993 American adventure drama film based on Laurens van der Post's works A Far Off Place (1974) and its prequel, A Story Like the Wind (1972). It stars Reese Witherspoon, Ethan Randall, Jack Thompson and Maximilian Schell. The plot concerns three young teenagers who must cross the Kalahari Desert to safety when their parents are murdered by a poacher.

A Far Off Place was filmed in Namibia and Zimbabwe[2] from May to September 1992.[3]

Plot[edit]

Against his wishes, spoiled New York young Harry Winslow accompanies his father to Africa's Kalahari Desert to spend time with family acquaintances Paul and Elizabeth Parker. Harry clashes with the Parkers’ spirited 14-year-old daughter Nonnie, who wants to follow in her dad's footsteps as a wildlife commissioner fighting Africa's elephant poachers. That night, Nonnie and the family dog, Hintza, sneak out of the house to meet her bushman friend, Xhabbo. Harry follows them to a cave, where they spend the night helping Xhabbo recover his strength after he is attacked by a leopard.

At dawn, Nonnie returns to the house to discover that her parents and Harry's father have been murdered for investigating the export of ivory, a poaching operation secretly run by Paul Parker's associate, John Ricketts. Nonnie hides from the poachers but Ricketts realizes Nonnie and Harry are missing. Nonnie manages to grab explosives and attaches them to the bottom of the poachers' truck, killing several of Ricketts’ men. She flees to the cave and Xhabbo advises them to “follow the wind” by heading west across the Kalahari Desert. On the edge of the desert, Xhabbo communicates with a herd of elephants and convinces them to cover their tracks by following behind. Harry is furious to learn they have 2,000 kilometers to travel before reaching the seaport of Karlstown, but Nonnie remains optimistic.

Meanwhile, the Parkers’ close friend, Colonel Mopani Theron, learns of the attack and, unaware of Ricketts' involvement, orders Ricketts to lead an aerial search party to find the missing children. Harry attempts to flag down an approaching helicopter, thinking they are being rescued, but Nonnie warns they could be poachers and says they should hide. Harry stuffs their clothes with straw to make fake decoy bodies which they place in the sand. In hiding, the kids watch in horror as the helicopter passengers gun down the straw bodies. Nonnie catches sight of the perpetrator and reveals it was Ricketts.

Over the next two months, the runaways dig up plant roots for sustenance, and Xhabbo teaches Harry how to speak his native language and hunt gemsbok. Col. Theron remains convinced that the Parkers’ death was a corporate conspiracy and continues his tireless search for the exporters’ store of elephant tusks, which he believes will lead him to the murderer.

Nonnie and Harry are forced to leave Xhabbo behind when he gets injured by a scorpion. While wandering in search of water, Nonnie collapses in the sand. Hearing the hum of Ricketts’ approaching helicopter, Nonnie and Xhabbo weakly thump their chests in the spiritual Bushman practice of “tapping,” which summons a sandstorm that forces Ricketts to flee.

Unaware they are only a few yards away from the Atlantic coast, the three youngsters fall unconscious and awaken in a Karlstown hospital. There, Nonnie is reunited with Col. Theron and informs him that Ricketts was responsible for her parents’ deaths. Once they recover, Nonnie and Harry accompany Col. Theron to Ricketts’ mining facility, where they find his hoard of elephant tusks. They rig the place with dynamite just as Ricketts arrives. Nonnie and Harry are able to lead Ricketts outside and light the fuse. Ricketts runs back into the mine trying to extinguish the flame, but the dynamite explodes and buries him beneath the rock.

Sometime later, Nonnie and Harry say goodbye to Xhabbo, who returns to the Kalahari. Harry kisses Nonnie before boarding an aircraft home to New York, and Nonnie tells him to leave without looking back. However, as she and Col. Theron begin cleaning the charred remains of the Parker home, Harry returns, and the children embrace.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Principal photography was in Namibia and Zimbabwe in from May to September 1992.[4] It was the directorial debut of cinematographer Mikael Salomon.[3]

The aircraft featured in A Far Off Place were:

Reception[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a score of 42% based on reviews from 12 critics, with an average rating of 5 out of 10.[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[7]

Film critic Roger Ebert criticized the plot and the level of violence. Awarding the film two stars, he singled out the film's premise which requires the characters to cross 2,000 kilometers to find help: "As perhaps the only American film critic who has in fact crossed the Kalahari Desert, twice, I could have saved them a lot of trouble. There were dozens of towns and villages within 100 miles of their starting place, and Cape Town itself would have been less than 2,000 kilometers away".[8] He also noted the film's similarities to the 1971 Australian film Walkabout.[8]

Ebert praised the performances and the photography, the latter which he said "captures the forms of the sand dunes with real poetry".[8] In addition, Ebert positively cited "the scenes where the young Bushman (Sarel Bok) teaches...survival lore, tells [the kids] the legends of his people, and laughs uproariously at their Westernized behavior".[8] He lamented the film's strengths gave way to tired plot conventions and scenes of violence that are arguably above a PG rating.[8]

Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin had mixed reactions to the storyline. He considered the plot "borderline-slow but head-on straight", and said that the "frank treatment of death makes this iffy for young kids, but older children should find it rewarding."[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Box Office Data: 'A Far Off Place'." The Numbers, June 16, 2014.
  2. ^ Howe, Desson (March 12, 1993). "'A Far Off Place'". Washington Post. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "A Far Off Place - Notes". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  4. ^ "AFI|Catalog - A Far Off Place". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  5. ^ Santoir, Christian (March 17, 2018). "Review: A Far Off Place". Aeromovies (in French). Archived from the original on December 21, 2018.
  6. ^ "A Far Off Place". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 11, 2023.
  7. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2022-10-02.
  8. ^ a b c d e Ebert, Roger (March 12, 1993). "A Far Off Place". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  9. ^ Maltin 2011, p. 443.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Maltin, Leonard, ed. Leonard Maltin's 2012 Movie Guide. New York: New American Library, 2011 (originally published as TV Movies, then Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide), First edition 1969, published annually since 1988. ISBN 978-0-451-23447-6.

External links[edit]