Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Movie Review - The Gods Must Be Crazy!



Dictionary.com defines communication as:

com·mu·ni·ca·tion

noun/kəˌmyo͞onəˈkāSHən/
communications, plural

1. The imparting or exchanging of information or news

- Direct communication between the two countries will produce greater understanding

- At the moment I am in communication with London

2. A letter or message containing such information or news

3. The successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings

- There was a lack of communication between Pamela and her parents

4. Social contact

- She gave him some hope of her return, or at least of their future communication

5. Means of connection between people or places, in particular

The root of the word “communication” in Latin is communicare, which means to share, or to make common. Communication is defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning. It is the relationship that involves interaction between participants, the process of understanding and sharing another’s point of view effectively.

There are various forms of communication:

-Symbolic and Written Forms of Communication

Symbolic and written communication enabled humankind to communicate and record history that took place many years ago; in fact, it is believed that some of the symbols scribed on the inside of caves were made from early humans that dated as far back as one million years BC. Some of the oldest forms of communication were symbolic in nature; for example, the Ancient Egyptians developed an alphabet with symbols that represented each letter in their alphabet, and they would put words together that formed sentences through clustering them vertically. Early native peoples did much the same thing through using physical symbols through the medium of smoke signals to warn their people of danger or to signal an attack to begin battle. As the human race has evolved globally, our form of written communication has become what it is today: more sophisticated with grammar and vocabulary.

-Verbal Communication

Verbal communication is also one of the oldest forms of communication and it too dates back to the times of early humans where sounds such as grunts, groans, and other guttural sounds, at different volumes or inflections, indicated friendly communication or a threat or warning to stay away from food or belongings. As is the case with the development of writing, our verbal communication has progressed and has become, as we know it today.

-Body Language

Another form of communication that is neither verbal nor written is body language. Reading a persons body language can indicate if they are upset, nervous, stressed out, or angry. On the other hand, body language can also show if a person is relaxed, tired, happy or sad. Body language is a very effective form of communication that is used by children and adults, but it is also used by domestic or wild animals; for example, you can tell just as easily if a saber-toothed tiger is about to attack or when your pet cat wants a back rub, yet both of these forms of communication through body language are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

-Digital or Electronic Forms of Communication

Our world has progressed quickly over the years with the inception of digital and electronic forms of communication. From that fateful day Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone to the present, humankind has swiftly moved forward in its digital or electronic communication. Instruments and tools such as computers, e-mail, faxes, radio, satellite television, the telephone, and the cellular phone have aided humankind in its quest to communicate efficiently. Unfortunately, it has also increased the workload experienced by people around the world.

Intercultural communication or communication between people of different cultural backgrounds has always been and probably will remain an important precondition of human co-existence on earth. Intercultural communication seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures behave, communicate and perceive the world around them.

The definition of intercultural communication must also include strands of the field that contribute to it such as anthropology, cultural studies, psychology and communication. There are many researchers and academics of note within the intercultural field, which naturally all have different definitions of intercultural communication. For example Karlfried Knapp defines intercultural communication as “the interpersonal interaction between members of different groups, which differ from each other in respect of the knowledge shared by their members and in respect of their linguistic forms of symbolic behaviors." There are also many more theorists such as Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede, Harry C. Triandis, Fons Trompenaars, Clifford Geertz and Shalom Schwartz.

The theories developed by the researchers and academics can and has been applied to many fields such as business management, marketing, advertising and website design. Intercultural communication theories are now also used within the education, health care and other public services due to growing multicultural populations. Intercultural communication is of importance to international businesses as it examines how people from different cultures, beliefs and religions come together to work and communicate with each other.

Demands for intercultural communication skills are increasing as more and more businesses operate globally. They realize that there are barriers and limitations when entering a foreign territory. Without the help of intercultural communication they can unknowingly cause confusion and misunderstandings. For these intercultural businesses to breach the cultural barriers encountered when stepping into foreign grounds it is vital for them to fully understand the cultural differences that exist so as to prevent damaging business relations due to intercultural communication gaps.

There are many theories that set principles to help interpret the basis of intercultural communication. These theories help to iron out possible ripples of misunderstanding by giving a basic guideline on how to address situations. These guidelines help prevent clashes between different cultures groups caused by misperceptions. The basic skills of intercultural communication are fundamentally general communication skills that can be used universally by all cultures and races. These skills are simply tweaked in a direction that takes the cultural limitation into consideration. An example of such communication skills in the intercultural environment is to listen without judging, repeat what you understand, confirm meanings, give suggestions and acknowledge a mutual understanding.

In a nutshell the main purpose of following such theories is to earn respect from others. Respect in all cultures in the world is a common language and by earning it through respecting other peoples culture and religion; the favor is returned.

The film I chose to review is titled “The Gods Must be Crazy” it is a 1980 comedy. “The Gods Must be Crazy” was written and directed by Jamie Uys. The film was the first of “The Gods Must be Crazy” series. It was set in Botswana and South Africa, it tells the story of Xi (Starring N!xau, a Namibian farmer) a Sho of the Kalahari Desert whose band has no knowledge of the world outside the desert. Ster Kinekor Pictures first released The Gods Must Be Crazy in South Africa in 1980; it became a box-office record breaker in the country. On July 13, 1984, The Gods Must Be Crazy was released on videocassette worldwide.

The film consists of three separate stories, each crossing paths with one another; interchanging ones believes and culture. The journey of Xi, the Bushmen to the end of the earth to get rid of a Coca-cola bottle, the romance between a naïve and shy biologist Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) and a schoolteacher Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo); and a band of rebellious guerrillas.

Xi and his tribe of relatives lived deep down in the Kalahari Desert. Isolated from the world beyond, their first encounter with technology was a Coca-Cola bottle that fell out of an airplane. Initially, this strange artifact seems to be another gift from the gods, Xi's people found many uses for it. But unlike anything they had before, there were only one bottle to go around. Since it has caused the tribe unhappiness on numerous occasions, Xi decides that the bottle is an evil thing and must be thrown off of the edge of the world. He sets out alone on his quest and encounters Western civilization and modern society for the first time.

There are also storylines of a shy biologist Andrew Steyn who is studying the local animals and has nervous breakdowns when close to a women. He was assigned to pick up the newly hired village schoolteacher from a town of Mabula, with an unreliable, breaking down vehicle. She was a former newspaper reporter named Kate Thompson, who needed a break from the hectic city life so she applied for a teaching job in a small village of Botswana. From the moment they met, situation between Steyn and Thompson are extremely awkward and embarrassing. Steyn has an assistant and mechanic M'pudi (Michael Thys) who helps Steyn with his girl problems. Also in the plot were a band of guerrillas led by Sam Boga (Louw Verwey), who was being pursued by government troops after an unsuccessful attempt to massacre the Cabinet of the fictional African country of Burani.

Xi happened to come upon a civilization where he found a heard of goat and decided to shoot one with his arrow. For this he is arrested and jailed for stealing livestock. Xi is totally oblivious to the crime he had committed. M'pudi, who had experienced living with the Bushmen and spoke Xi's language, realized that Xi will die in the alien environment of a prison cell. M’pudi and Steyn managed to help Xi out of jail. Meanwhile, the guerrillas invaded the school where Kate was teaching and used the pupils as hostage for their plan to escape. Steyn, M’pudi and Xi managed to immobilize the guerrillas and saved Kate and the children. Steyn manned up to approached Kate and won her love.

Xi left the civilization to continue his quest to the edge of the world. Xi eventually finds himself at the top of a cliff with a solid layer of low-lying clouds obscuring the landscape below. This convinces Xi that he has reached the edge of the world, and he throws the bottle off the cliff. Xi then returns to his band.

The film illustrates the utter contrast between the culture of the Bushmen and modern society by socializing members from very different culture background. The cultural contrasts are evident in the characters' actions, values and views of what is considered a norm to each society. The film clearly presents differences between human cultures and the idea of ethnocentrism.

The Bushmen culture is one of simplicity and contentment. The pace of life in the Bushmen culture is relaxed and slow. Being completely isolated from the outside world, they thought airplanes were noisy birds that fly without flapping their wings. The Bushmen culture was one without social classes. They never punished or even spoke harshly to their children and yet the children were surprisingly well behaved. The Bushmen place the greatest value on their family and their relationship with god. At the beginning of the film, a member of the Bushmen quoted “everything god has gave us is good because we are his children and he loves us.” The Bushmen also seem to have a deep respect for all life both human and non-human. In one scene, the Bushman shoots an antelope with a tranquilizer dart and waits until the animal lays down to go to sleep; before killing it the Bushmen would apologize for killing the animal and explained that he must do it so that his family could eat. His action showed that the Bushmen hunted only out of necessity and not as primitive games. Although the Bushmen lived in circumstances that modern society would think of as backwards or prehistoric they seemed to be very happy and completely content with their lives.

The most striking aspect of the Bushmen culture was the complete lack of conflict among its members. Their culture had no crime, no punishment, no violent, no laws, no police, no judges, no rulers and bosses. They had no concept of private or personal property and readily shared their food with others. This situation changed immediately upon the discovery of the “gift from the gods” which was in reality just a coke bottle a pilot had threw out; but they believed it was god’s gift because it had fallen from the sky. The Bushmen found a various uses for this bottle, used as a music-maker, tool and toy. The bottle was described as the most useful thing god has ever given them. It became the Bushmen's first scarce resource to them. The narrator quoted “for the first time thing became a necessity, unfamiliar emotions began to stir, feeling of wanting to own and not wanting to share, anger, jealously, hate and violent.” The bottle encouraged the members to begin fighting with each other for its possession and use. The situation was considered as the worst thing that had ever happened to them. It made them wondered why god has given them such an evil thing. The Bushmen decided they had to get rid

of it by throwing it off the edge earth, thinking earth is flat. Xi’s first encounter with Kate and Steyn, he assumed that they were gods and tried giving them back the bottle. Narrator quotes “though it was a hot day, she was covering her body with skins that looked as if they were made from cobwebs. She was doing strange and magical things, and it struck him that she must be one of the gods.” This was the first time Xi had ever seen a woman wearing a dress; in his culture women would only be wear a piece of animal skin. Xi than saw Steyn smoking a pipe, he thought Steyn had a fire inside him; the smoke came out through his mouth and nostrils. It was because of these “gods” behavior as well as the havoc caused by their “gift” that the film got its name “The Gods Must Be Crazy.”

Modern society is very different from the tranquil world of the Bushmen. Ours is a society that moves at an incredibly fast pace. It is a culture of alarm clocks, highways, traffic jams and coffee cups. Our society the entire day is both highly structured and highly chaotic. The narrator explains that people from modern society can go insane because of how hectic a day can be he quotes “Civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment; instead, he adapted his environment to suit him. So he built cities, roads, vehicles, machinery, and he put up power lines to run his laborsaving devices. But somehow he didn't know where to stop. The more he improved his surroundings to make life easier, the more complicated he made it. So now his children are sentenced to 10-15 years of school, just to learn how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat they were born into. And civilized man, who refused to adapt to his surroundings, now finds he has to adapt and re-adapt every hour of the day to his self-created environment. For instance, if it's Monday and 7:30 comes up, you have to dis-adapt from your domestic surroundings and re-adapt yourself to an entirely different environment. 8:00 means everybody has to look busy. 10:30 means you can stop looking busy for 15 minutes. And then you have to look busy again. And so your day is chopped into pieces, and in each segment of time you adapt to a new set circumstances. No wonder some people go off the rails a bit.” A day in modern society does not revolve around relationships with god and family as in the Bushmen culture, but instead seems to revolve around work and wealth.

The differences in the perceptions and tastes of the two cultures are amazing. There are several sharp contrasts that come to light through the thoughts and behaviors of the characters in the film. The first such difference is in each culture's standard of beauty. The schoolteacher Kate Thompson is, in the eyes of western society, an attractive woman. She was thin, blonde haired, and had a cute face. When Xi saw her; she was not regarded as beautiful in his eyes he described her as, “the ugliest creature he had ever come across, she was as paled as something that crawled out of a rotting long.” He saw her blonde hair not as some attractive ideal but instead as being white, like an old woman's hair. The second difference in the two cultures is the prevalence of fear. Those characters in the film that came from modern society were conditioned to automatically fear strangers and expect the worst from other people this was not, however; true of the Bushmen. In a scene of the film, where a rhino was approaching them, Steyn jumps on Kate Thompson in an attempt to warn her as to the rhino’s attack. Kate's automatic reaction is to assume the worst: she fears that he is attempting to rape her, to do her harm. The Bushman does not show this same fear when encountering strangers; he only thinks them rude when they behave so strangely toward him. Xi was not afraid of a gun to him it was nothing more than a “funny stick.” The white man was, however; scared to death by the gun because modern society has conditioned him to fear guns and their destructive power.A particularly interesting clash of the cultures occurs when Xi is arrested for killing a goat. In the eyes of modern society he had broken a law by stealing the goat and had to be brought to court, but in his eyes he had been simply hunting for his food just as he did every other day of his life and had broken no law. He was totally oblivious to the concept of ownership. When the police took the goat away from him he thought the police was greedy and wanted to eat the goat himself. When Xi entered the courtroom he smiled at the others and was confused when no one smiled back. The verdict could not even be translated into his language because the Bushmen had no word for "guilty."

The Bushman did many things that seem weird to members of modern society such as talking to a baboon. When the baboon took the Coca-Cola bottle; Xi calmly explained to the baboon "That is a very evil thing you've got. You better give it back so I can take it and throw it off the earth. It brought unhappiness to my family. If you don't give it to me it'll bring grief to you and your family too." He spoke long and earnestly until the baboon began to pay attention. He must have convinced it, and it dropped the thing. And Xi said, "You have done a very wise thing." He did not speak to the baboon as an animal, but rather as an equal. In one scene, Xi risked his own neck to help M’pudi escape from a hungry lion that was coming after him, whereas the reaction of the members of the modern society was to save his own life first. Another amazing difference between the two cultures is the value that each places on money. At the end of the film, Steyn gave Xi some money but says that he has no use for it. After Steyn insists on giving him the money the Bushman throws it away. Money, the all in all of modern society was completely worthless in the eyes of the Bushmen.

I have watched this film countless times through out my life, Xi the Bushman actions and perceptions are absolutely hilarious; it does not fail to make me laugh every time. Even though the film is a comedy, this film conveys several messages and teaches the audiences several lessons. For instant, it cunningly brings the harsh reality of apartheid in Africa to an international audience. I personally learn to respect and not to underestimate or judge a person. No one among us can expect all people to think and act as we do. The film showed that people socialized into different cultures come to see the world through very different sets of eyes. Individual cultures, as well as individual people are different. Just because we are different does not mean that there is not a great deal that we can learn from each other. We must embrace our differences and see the great strength that comes with diversity. It is also particularly interesting to me that the Bushmen seem to have nothing and yet have everything at the same time. While it is true that they lack automobiles, electricity and big fancy houses; they have one thing that very few people ever manage to have in modern society: true happiness. In our society we spend so much time trying to get ahead financially so we can be happy for an instant, that we forget the things that could make us happy forever.







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