Now playing in its 11th month in Los Angeles, "The Gods Must Be Crazy" has introduced a lot of people to the Bushman. Or has it? Documentary film maker-anthropologist John Marshall is among those who take exception to what he called "the perpetuation of a myth."
Speaking by phone from his Massachusetts home, Marshall said: "I don't have any argument with people making up stories. I understand how the movie business works. But when they mislead others. . . . The job that (film maker Jamie) Uys did on the Bushman completely distorted the situation. If only he had said, 'Once upon a time. . . .' "
According to Marshall (whose films include "N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman," which aired on PBS, and the just-finished "Pull Yourselves Up or Die Out"--both about the Bushman people), the Bushman are a people dispossessed from their own land by the (white) South African government. "Without their own land, they cannot hunt and gather to survive, as the hero of the film does. . . . In real life, he (Bushman performer N!Xau) grew up on a cattle post. He was a cook when Uys found him," Marshall said.
He thought parts of the movie were funny: "But I was extremely bothered by the fact that it fosters the belief that there are Bushman people living in a natural idyll in the desert. If only it were so."