The above animation is a “proof of concept” production test that demonstrates the software and techniques that will be used to make Song of the Kalahari. The artistic style of the finished film will continue to evolve. The production is excited to be working with Bushmen painters and artists from the Kuru Art Project to further develop a visual look for the film based on contemporary Bushmen art.
 

The Film

Based on historical and first-hand accounts, as well as the folklore and beliefs of the Kalahari Bushmen, Song of the Kalahari transcends time, exploring the story of humanity’s oldest culture and its struggles in a rapidly changing world.

The medium of animation was chosen by the creative team as the best avenue for this story, both to provide a unique visual style as well as to protect the anonymity of the Bushmen working with us. Bushmen who take a stand against the human rights abuses they are facing are often targeted and punished by government reprisals. An animated film allows the Bushmen’s stories to be shared without calling unwanted attention to any specific village or person.

Currently in development, Song of the Kalahari is a feature length film that will take two years to complete, working out of the boutique studio of Emerging Beyond Films in Santa Cruz, California. We have completed the first of four planned trips to the Kalahari, where we have collected over ten hours of stories and interviews from the Bushmen and taken thousands of photos. Using this source material, we have constructed the story for Song of the Kalahari.

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The Story

Told through the eyes of a Bushman hunter, Song of the Kalahari weaves together stories from the folklore, personal accounts and history of the African Bushmen up to modern day, transcending time.

Before there were humans, all people were animals. Du the hunter and his family were once kudu until the Big God asked them what kind of people they wanted to be and transformed them all into Bushmen. Du lives happily with his family as Bushmen, learning how to hunt and track from his Uncle and celebrating with his village in their sacred dances. When the cow-herding people come to settle in the Bushman homelands, a perilous encounter causes the Bushmen to leave the lush grasslands and head out to into the Kalahari Desert.

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The Bushmen are masters of their environment and they still live well, despite the harsher conditions of their new home. On their way to the big watering hole, the Bushmen come across the aftermath of a massacre of a local village by colonial soldiers. Fear of this new threat drives the Bushmen deeper into the desert. Danger eventually finds them in the form of a Victorian hunting party that takes down a lion and one of Du’s friends as hunting trophies.

Some time later, Du and his companions help a white man who is lost in the desert find water and his way home. The rancher returns the favor by inviting Du’s family to his farm so he may learn tracking and other skills from the Bushmen, offering them protection, food and shelter in exchange for their help. Du’s happly life at the farm abruptly ends when a paramilitary attack razes the farm and his family is killed. He escapes into the bush, eventually finding a village of Bushmen refugees from all over who have also suffered from the effects of war.

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Du makes a new family in this village, but eventually Government men arrive and begin to harass the Bushmen to move. Du is once again forced to leave his home, this time to move to a resettlement camp where he must also abandon his migratory way of life and is not allowed to hunt. There, Du is exposed to new dangers of violence, alcohol and harassment. When Bushmen hunters travelling through see Du sharing meat with the women and children of the settlement, they invite him to live at their village and work with them at a distant ranch.

Du is received caringly at this new village and eventually comes out of his shell, teaching the young ones his bushcraft skills and working with his friends to show tourists the Bushmen’s knowledge of the Kalahari. Du attends a Bushmen ceremonial healing dance. He has a vision of Kudu and releases all the sadness he has been carrying.

The next day, Du goes on a hunt for Kudu. The hunt is a success and Du is filled with joy. Unburdened from his sorrow and fulfilled for the first time in many years, Du transforms into Kudu and races out into the bush, his spirit reinvigorated and full of life.

 

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