The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) from Tuna

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980) is a comedy from Botswana, and it is the most successful film ever to come out of Africa. It is also a personal favorite.

It starts as four stories.

  • A female reporter, Sandra Prinsloo, decides to volunteer to teach at a remote school in Botswana to escape the rat race.

  • A scientist is analyzing elephant dung for his doctoral thesis. The scientist is recruited to pick up Prinsloo and take her to the school when the Reverend's car has problems. He immediately turns into a blithering idiot around women, especially one he finds as attractive as Prinsloo.

  • A coke bottle thrown carelessly from a passing airplane lands in the Calahari bush, and causes a major upheaval in the bushman society. The coke bottle is the hardest thing the people there have ever seen, and the smoothest. They find dozens of uses for this gift from the Gods, but soon are fighting over it. The leader realizes it is an evil thing, and decides to throw it off the end of the earth, no matter how long it takes.

  • Finally, revolutionaries try to assassinate the president of a neighboring country, and flee into Botswana.

Eventually, all four plots converge (did you have any doubts?) and everything works out. The story is partially narrated by someone who sounds very much like an anthropologist. Much of the humor is wonderful slapstick, which accounts for some of the worldwide popularity. The bushman, played by N!xau, an actual bushman, was a natural performer.


  • Sandra Prinsloo has a very nice see-through after falling into a water hole.
  • At least two bush women show breasts.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Two films, this and the sequel

  • Featurettes: "Journey to Nyae Nyae, "Buster Reynolds Remembers Jamie Uys"

  • Baraka school photo gallery

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

  • Number of discs: 2

Scoop's note:

I'm not sure why this film fell into oblivion over the years, and why it has such a tepid rating at IMDB. It was a box office smash in 1980 - #15 for the year. It was a critical darling and still has 100% positive reviews from the few people who acknowledge its existence.

Many American critics argued that it is racist at its core. To me, that makes about as much sense as saying that Gilligan's Island is racist because it portrays white people as buffoons. The film is a slapstick pseudo-documentary, using mock-ethnographic narration, and that may lead people to criticize the "truth" of the film. In reality is is simply meant to be silly, and not to reflect reality or sociological insight.

The Critics Vote

  • MRQE. 5 reviews on file. The two graded ones are both B+.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $51.2 million in the United States, and was the #15 film of 1980. (That's a major hit. For reference, the 15th highest grossing film in 2003 took in $127 million.)
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a B-. I am not sure what to call the genre, other than comedy, but this has, I think, a very broad appeal, and deserves a B-. Besides, you have to love a PG rated film with actual nudity.

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