15 August 2005


Sometimes you want to see a movie just to be contrary. Such was the case with Duma, which we saw last weekend. I'd heard that Warner Brothers hadn't even wanted to release it, but a 3.5-star review from Roger Ebert led to a limited Chicago opening.

Director Carroll Ballard has made a specialty of animal movies, starting with Never Cry Wolf, in 1983. Perhaps no other filmmaker takes animals so seriously--so much on their own terms--while staging their interactions with human beings.

The story--about a young white African boy named Xan who adopts an orphaned cheetah cub--seems farfetched, but the film is based on fact, as told in How it Was with Dooms, a young adult picture book written by Xan with his mother. The movie doesn't provide much detail about what it's like to raise a wild animal--Duma behaves pretty much like a housecat, only bigger, and able to run a hell of a lot faster. When the cheetah is nearly grown, though, Xan's father impresses upon him that Duma must be returned to the wild soon, or he will never be able to survive on his own. After a series of events, Xan embarks on a solo mission to take Duma back to the wilderness. This adventure is the heart of the movie.

Like most animal pictures, Duma is likely to be billed as a family film. Certainly, there is nothing to exclude children over a certain age (very young children might find some scenes frightening), but there is also nothing childish about it. The key themes of love, grief, and survival are explored with grown-up thoughtfulness and depth, and I don't know any adults to whom I would not recommend this movie.

Filed in:

No comments: