Thursday, January 19, 2006

Movie / Duma

Warning - potential spoilers in this review.

From the director of "The Black Stallion," the charming story of a young (white) boy and his pet cheetah in South Africa. While touching on many social issues, and probably drawing from stock wild animal footage, the film is not a documentary, but a well enough written drama about a cute little cheetah cub captured by the boy and his father, which grows up into a terrifying looking but incredibly well behaved full size pet named "Duma." (Yes, the plot is somewhat contrived, but that can be said of tons of movies.)

After the untimely death of the father, the boy and his mother move to the city, where Duma inevitably escapes, causing havoc, and the boy decides to return him (singlehandedly) to where they found him, as his father had vowed, hundreds of miles away. After his (father's) motorcycle runs out of gas, they continue alone on foot across inhospitable terrain, while his mother mounts a major search. On the way he meets a (friendly) black guy, heading back to his village from the city, and the three of them have a series of Tom Sawyer type adventures together, which include nearly being eaten by crocodiles, lions, etc., culminating in Duma's successful return to the wild, and the boy's reunion with his mother.

One gets the impression they must have used several cheetahs during filming, but the main one has some distinctive facial markings that we see all the way though.

The film is basically a piece of poetry about wild animals, and while it carries a PG rating, probably for animals getting eaten, I imagine most children would find nothing to be upset about. There is relatively little tension (social or political), other than their struggle to survive outdoors in the South African wilds.

"Duma" was saved from video release by "Variety," but is only playing in four cities, and there might have been 10 people in the audience. Talk about no distribution. That being said it holds together very well and probably gets at least a three for beauty, human interest, and overall meaning. A fun and relatively light film about wild nature and growing up, through the eyes of a young boy. Not as intense as The Black Stallion, but haunting and fulfilling nonetheless.


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