Xi of the San Tribe
The Gods Must Be Crazy is a movie about a soft drink bottle and the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. The main character Xi lives with his San tribe in the arid Kalahari Desert. They are a happy and contended people who know how to live without a source of water for their survival. They have perfected the art of finding water from all available resources.
They believe that the gods provide for everything they need and they want nothing else. In their tribal community, a sense of ownership is not heard of. Everything in the community belongs to everyone and the system works for them.
The San tribe does not know that another world exists outside their community. Once in a while, they hear a thundering sound in the sky and find a huge bird flying without flapping its wings. Then one day, from this huge bird, an empty bottle of Coke comes flying down. Xi is walking along the dried grassy land when the bottle falls next to him.
When he takes the empty bottle of Coke to his tribe, the fun begins, or the chaos begins. They are amazed by the strange and most beautiful thing they have ever seen. It looks like water but it is very hard. They believe it is a present from the gods and they have found many uses for it. They can produce music by blowing on the top of the bottle, they use it as a tool for many of their daily activities but there is only one bottle to go around. Now every woman wants to use it for herself. It seems that they can no longer go about their daily routine without using it.
So trouble starts brewing. With everyone wanting the bottle at the same time, they have experienced the unfamiliar feeling of wanting to own and not wanting to share. The feeling of envy, anger, hate and even violence stir up within them. Even children start to fight for the bottle, so Xi and the elders arrive at the conclusion that the bottle is an evil thing, and that the gods were not thinking right when they sent it down to them. The gods must be crazy to send it to them.
They decide to send the bottle up to the gods. Xi tosses it up to the heavens but it keeps falling down. The gods do not want to take it back so he carries the thing away from the shelter and buries it but somehow a hyena digs it up and drops it where one of the Bushmen children finds it. The evil thing has somehow come back to their life and has caused unhappiness again so Xi decides to go to the end of the earth to throw the evil thing off. The next day, Xi starts his journey to the end of the earth with the “evil thing” in hand to throw it off.
Miles away, a group of guerillas led by Sam Boga is pursued by authorities after his men attack a government facility, killing some government officials.
In the city, Kate Thompson is so frustrated with her job that she takes a teaching post in Botswana where there is a shortage of teachers. Andrew Steyn is a biologist studying the local animals in the Kalahari area. The Reverend has requested Steyn to bring in Kate from Mabula where the bus will drop her off. Andrew who swears that his brain switches off in the presence of a lady becomes a total idiot by displaying his clumsiness in the presence of Kate. They get into a series of mishaps involving the old cantankerous Land Rover which is maintained by Steyn’s assistant and mechanic, M’pudi.
After all the misadventures that have been endured by Andrew Steyn in keeping Kate safe and sound, Jack Hind, a Zafari tour guide takes over like a hero and gives Kate a ride in his tour bus to the Reverend.
Xi comes upon a corral of goats. Just like he does in his community when hunting, he shoots a goat with his arrow dipped in a brew that sends the animals to sleep. The boy watching the corral runs and brings back the police. Due to misunderstanding, Xi is shot in the leg by the police and jailed.
M’pudi is called to court to become the interpreter for Xi since M’pudi who once lived with the bushmen, understands their dialect. Xi admitted shooting the animal with his arrow so he is sentenced to spend time in prison. M’pudi tells Steyn that Xi will die if incarcerated. He has never been within walls in his life, he needs to be outdoors. The only way to get Xi out is if he gets employment in lieu of a prison sentence. Steyn and M’pudi employ him as an animal tracker then.
Now, Sam Boga and his band of guerillas have crossed over to Botswana while pursued by the police. They enter Kate’s school and take them as human shield while they escape.
As part of the demands of Sam Boga, the area where they will pass must be cleared of everybody and food must be dropped on their path. The police clear everyone out, including Jack Hind’s tourists. They have to find Steyn to tell him to clear out as well. Jack guides the police to find Steyn.
Steyn, M’pudi and Xi are atop a rocky hill to observe the local wildlife. They see the group of Sam Boga with Kate and her students. They decide to help save the hostages.
With Xi’s ability and with a needle dipped in his sleeping brew, he is able to put the guerillas to sleep except two who exchanged gunfire with Kate and the older children, and with Steyn. After Steyn has successfully overpowered the two guerillas, the police with Jack Hind come and take over. Jack again makes himself the hero and gives Kate a ride back to safety.
At the end of his several weeks prison term, Xi continues his journey to the end of the earth. Steyn wins Kate’s affection and Xi has finally reached his destination. He finds himself at the top of a cliff over some low-lying clouds which obscure the landscape below. He believes it is the edge of the earth and he throws the bottle down. He then returns to his tribe and they live a happy and contented life once more.
The Gods Must Be Crazy is a comedy film from South Africa. The South African director Jamie Uys has written the story and directed the film. It is released in 1980 and has become the most commercially successful release in the history of South Africa’s film industry.
Xi is played by a Namibian San farmer named N!xau
Andrew Steyn is Marius Weyers
Kate Thompson is Sandra Prinsloo
M’pudi is Michael Thys
Sam Boga is Louw Verwey
This is the movie to watch if you are looking for a good comedy film. It is funny and it provides some food for thought. I read somewhere that “ignorance is bliss.” The San tribe does not know that there is a world beyond theirs, so they are happy and contented with what they have. Perhaps theirs is the real happiness that many civilized men have pursued in vain all their life.
Interesting points from the movie
“A civilized man refuses to adapt himself to its environment. Instead he adapts his environment to suit him. So he builds cities, roads, vehicles, machinery, and he puts up power lines to run his labor-saving devices. But somehow, he didn’t know when to stop, the more he improves his surroundings to make his life easier, the more complicated he has made it.”