Duma

by F.

I’m talking about the movie Duma, which is worth a rent.

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What do you get for your entertainment dollar? A fast-moving, well constructed coming-of-age story in three acts involving young boy and a cheetah. And it’s not just the young boy (Xan) who completes his character arc; Duma, the cheetah, does as well. Go, Duma! The only other film I can think of in which an animal completes his or her character arc is Being John Malkovich, when Elijah overcomes his painful memories of capture and imprisonment in Africa and frees Lotte. And didn’t you just get the warm fuzzies when that happened? I know I did.

Duma was, for me, a two or three Kleenex movie, not because it is sad, but because it is so heartwarming. The shots of Africa are truly awesome. I don’t know how those colors were captured on film, but they were. And did I mention the story involves a cheetah? Who sleeps with this cute little toe-head, Xan?

Have you ever fantasized about having a pet tiger (or other big cat) that wouldn’t pull a Roy Horn on you—that is, bite you in the neck and drag you around for a while? If so, this is a good safe way to enjoy that fantasy while maintaining your entire supply of blood and not having to suture up those fang-holes in your neck.

My impressionistic recollection of the plot is something like this. And, obviously, don’t read this if you don’t want to know the basic plot before you see the movie. Here goes:

Act I begins when Xan finds a cheetah cub and befriends it. It grows, but after Xan’s father dies, the family must move from their farm in the countryside to a city. This means Duma must go back to the wild. But before Xan and his mother can make the trip, Duma escapes the apartment and is chased by the cheetah catchers. Xan decides to make the trip on his own and sets north to put Duma back in his homeland. Will he make it?

In Act II, Xan treks through the wilderness, almost starves, almost gets eaten by crocs, almost drowns, and is befriended by a mysterious African named Ripkuna, who has just been released from jail. Ripkuna and Xan ultimately part ways on bad terms, and Xan heads on alone to get Duma back to his homeland. Act II ends when Xan and Duma get there. But will Duma be able to adjust to life in the wild?

Act III picks up this question, and also resolves a couple of subplots, such as Xan accepting his father’s death, and Ripkuna being reunited with his village and his family after his internment in prison (and an untimely tsetse fly attack). Ultimately, Duma gets his cheetah on while eating a gazelle (or some similar animal—ibex, impala, I don’t know), finds another cheetah to hunt with (I suspect this was a litter-mate, but it’s not clear—cheetah’s sort of all look alike to me), and still has the ability to put a big, fuzzy paw on Xan one last time as they part. Xan returns home to find his mother has abandoned the city for the farm, and Xan has grown.

And that’s when I got all misty and grabbed the Kleenexes.

This film is rated PG for some stupid reason—I can’t see why, other than a couple shots of gazelle carcasses. But it should really be suitable for kids of any age. And the music is way cool, too. Peter Gabriel was involved in that part of the film.

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