The two movies in the original series were directed by Jamie Uys and released in 1980 and 1989 to resounding success. One gets to see the lives of the Bushmen in the Kalahari like never before and the movies give attention to the antics of the animals in their natural setting.
Xi in the lead role of the Bushman is indeed an asset and the challenges he handles are interesting as well. The first movie sees him focus on getting rid of a Coca Cola bottle for the evil influence it brings in his world. The second one is about rescuing his children who have fallen into a trailer hitched with a water tank that was being used by Ivory smugglers.
The first movie was a runaway hit and that enabled its official sequel after nearly a decade. The movies have attained cult status now and am sure many of us watch its reruns once in a while. I remember watching the movies in the late 90s when I was still at school and I really enjoyed the humour and comic relief they bring into our lives. Xi is supposed to be the ‘misfit’ in our world but the insights we get into his life often hold ‘life-lessons’ for us to emulate.
The Coca Cola bottle softly lands in a Bushman settlement in Kalahari. It is regarded to be a blessing from God and is put to rather innovative uses. It proves to be far too useful and triggers envy and fight within the family. Xi then decides to get rid of it by traversing to the ‘end-of-the-world’ where he can finally throw it away.
The movie’s alternate track involves the budding romance between the bumbling biologist and the smart school teacher. It has real fun sequences – the troublesome jeep that does not have a brake and cannot be allowed to shut down provides ‘Chaplinesque’ moments. The Rhino episode in its role of putting our forest fires is cute as well. There is a risqué situation that leads the jeep to pulled up into the air using the electric winch that is a sight to watch. The hook works well the movie – till the very end our hero cuts a sorry figure – it is indeed magical that his lady-love realizes that he a kind-hearted person who deserves her hand.
The kids are really cute in the sequel – the fun they have in the water tanker is so natural that it is a pure delight. The animals have interesting cameos in the movie. We find a cute animal catching hold of our hero’s boot and not letting go of it easily. Our heroine struggles with the monkey who drinks off the water she pumps using a manual pump. The story about the Hyena measuring your height is used to great effect with the younger child.
True to type there is a side track featuring a growing romance between a local scientist and a visiting corporate lawyer.Their adventures with the small biplane are entertaining and lead to a fitting climax. Also featured in the desert is the perpetual upmanship game between two soldiers from the rival camps.
What is also fun is to observe is the beauty of the land and its people. Kalahari, the desert, is well-known but the scenic images we get to see of life in the region is truly amazing. The wildlife is well captured and serves as an advertisement to the tourist safaris that draw in so many foreign visitors.
Xi makes an instant impact on both the stories and one cannot imagine the movie without him. He comes across as intelligent and shrewd although he is not conversant with the situation he finds himself him. He adapts and improvises to somehow survive in the alien environment.