Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
|Featuring||Hope Davis, Campbell Scott, Alex Michaeletos, Eamonn Walker|
|Director||Carroll Ballard (READ OUR INTERVIEW)|
Based on a true story and based on the book How It Was With Dooms
“Some friendships are wilder than others.”
Duma is an expertly told and photographed coming-of-age film created by director Carroll Ballard (“The Black Stallion,” “Fly Away Home”). If you’ve seen any of those films, then you already have a good idea of the plot for this new film. Substitute a cheetah for the horse in Stallion, and you have “Duma.”
This is not meant to suggest that “Duma” is boring or predictable. It’s fascinating and brilliant—an adventure in stunningly beautiful locations where you’ll face dangerous crocodiles, wild boars, lions, and many other African residents.
The story begins with a young man named Xan (Alexander Michaletos), growing up on his family’s farm in South Africa after he and his father take in a new pet—an orphaned cheetah whom they dub Duma. As their “pet” grows up, Xan’s father makes it clear that they will one day unleash Duma to live among his own kind. Interestingly, he also draws a comparison between both Xan and Duma, stating that they can no more hang onto Duma than they could ever contain Xan once he grows up.
Duma quickly becomes a “hero’s journey” film, constantly showing Xan fighting overwhelming physical odds to accomplish the stated will of his father. The boy Xan sets out with Duma into the wilderness, far from family, the only place he can still receive the mantle of manhood.
After Xan runs into trouble, another wanderer, Rip (Eamonn Walker), is introduced. If Xan were named Huckleberry Finn, then Rip would be Jim—the older, cynical outlaw who doesn’t believe he needs anyone else, least of all a lonely boy in the center of the desert. As their circumstances force them to depend upon one another, both are significantly changed. Their journey becomes more meaningful than each individual exercising his own survival skills, and the companions’ friendship deepens with every trial.
In one critical scene, Xan and Rip discuss death. Xan wonders how a person can just disappear from his life, and he reveals a deeper anger. Rip seems to speak from experience in responding, “[Those who die] leave when they’re ready, not when you are.” The older man then states, “We all do what we can before we disappear,” revealing an underlying despair and unbelief in anything beyond their present physical existence. The Apostle Paul summarized this human viewpoint when he quoted, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” (1 Corinthians 15:32).
See my interview with director Carroll Ballard—GO
“Duma” succeeds spectacularly in showing us Africa as most Westerners will never experience it. There are intense action sequences throughout that parents will want to accompany their children in attending, and there are viewpoints on serious themes that parents should not allow to slip past without discussion. “Duma” is a great film that shows off the beautiful creation of an untame God.
Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/nudity: None