On the news this morning, Jeffrey Lyons, NBC/Channel 4’s critic here in Los Angeles almost seemed enthusiastic about Duma being released this week. He called it a good family film shot in exotic places (or words to that effect.) I would have to agree.
When I previewed the film several months ago, there were continuity gaps that I am sure must have been cleaned up by now. Having said this, Duma is a fine watch with one of my favorite actors, Campbell Scott playing the role of the father, Peter.
One day, somewhere in the South African outback, Peter and his son Xan (Alex Michaeletos) come across a baby cheetah. They take it home and raise it. Peter soon dies and Kristin (Hope Davis), Xan’s mother, sells the farm and they move to the city. Duma (the name means ‘cheetah’) accompanies them but wrecks havoc in the apartment. When he follows Xan to school, where Xan is not happy, they find a motorcycle with a bucket seat, and flee to the wilderness. Once there, they meet Ripkuna (Eamonn Walker) who is also on a journey of his own. They travel together for awhile but are eventually separated as they make their way home, wherever that may be.
Duma is a traditional coming-of-age-quest-animal story, but this one is fresh and shot against South Africa’s gorgeous wilderness landscape - that is itself one of the main characters.
Some themes are:
· The environment
· Wild animals and their relationship to humans,
Reconciliation, in one way or another, is the subtle over-arching theme of the film. Perhaps it is a metaphor for the nation’s journey, and ours as well.
The reason I say this is because at the beginning of the film Peter and Xan stop at a roadside restaurant to eat and Peter begins a conversation with a stranger. Xan is embarrassed and asks him why he always does that - talk with strangers. Peter answers that there a billions of people on the planet and it is good to get to know some of them (or something to that effect - it's been a while since I saw the film.)