The Gods Must Be Crazy

1980 South African film by Jamie Uys
  (Redirected from The Gods Must be Crazy)
The Gods Must Be Crazy
Gods must be crazyposter.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jamie Uys
Produced by Jamie Uys
Written by Jamie Uys,
Mont'e Ramodumo
Narrated by Paddy O'Byrne
Music by John Boshoff
Cinematography Buster Reynolds
Robert Lewis
Edited by Stanford C. Allen
Jamie Uys
Distributed by Ster Kinekor (SA)[1]:77
20th Century Fox (US)
Release date
  • 10 September 1980 (1980-09-10) (South Africa)
  • 9 July 1984 (1984-07-09) (US: Limited)
  • 13 July 1984 (1984-07-13)
Running time
109 minutes
Country South Africa
Language English
Ungwatsi[clarification needed]
Budget $5 million[2]
Box office over $60,000,000 (US)[3]

The Gods Must Be Crazy is a 1980 South African comedy film written and directed by Jamie Uys. Financed only from local sources, it is the most commercially successful release in the history of South Africa's film industry.[3] Originally released in 1980, the film is the first in The Gods Must Be Crazy series. It is followed by one official sequel released by Columbia Pictures.

Set in Botswana, it follows the story of Xi, a San of the Kalahari Desert (played by Namibian San farmer Nǃxau ǂToma) whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond, Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers), a biologist who analyzes manure samples for his PhD dissertation, and Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo), a newly hired village school teacher.



Xi and his San tribe of Ju'/Hoansi bushmen are "living well off the land" in the Kalahari Desert. They are happy because of their belief that the gods have provided plenty of everything, and no one among them has any wants. One day, a glass Coca-Cola bottle is thrown out of an airplane and falls to Earth unbroken. Initially, Xi's people suppose this strange artifact is another "present" from the gods and find many uses for it. (They employ it as a crafts tool, blow the top to make music, etc.) But unlike anything that they have had before, there is only one glass bottle to go around. With everyone wanting it at once, they soon find themselves experiencing envy, anger, and even violence.

Since the bottle has caused the tribe unhappiness, Xi consults with elders and concludes that it's an "evil thing" which the gods were "absent-minded" to send them. Noting that some attempts to dispose of the bottle have failed, Xi agrees to make a pilgrimage to the edge of the world and toss the seemingly cursed thing off.

Along the way, he encounters a diverse assortment of people. There's biologist Andrew Steyn, who is studying the local animals; Kate Thompson, the newly hired village school teacher; a band of guerrillas led by Sam Boga, who are being pursued by government troops after an unsuccessful attack; a safari tour guide named Jack Hind; and Steyn's assistant and mechanic, M'pudi (who is maintaining his cantankerous Land Rover).

When hungry Xi happens upon a corral, he shoots a goat with a tranquilizer arrow. He is shortly jailed for this attempt on livestock. M'pudi, who once lived with the San and still speaks Xi's dialect, concludes that Xi will die if kept incarcerated. He and Steyn apply to employ Xi as a tracker for the remainder of his sentence in lieu of prison. Meanwhile, the guerrillas invade Kate's school and take her and the students as human shields for their escape to the neighboring country.

Steyn, M'pudi, and Xi soon discover their field work (observing the local wildlife) is on the terrorists' chosen path. They manage to immobilize the guerrillas as they are passing by and save Kate and the children. However, Jack Hind takes away Kate, and Steyn is left at the same place again.

With Xi's term over, Steyn insists upon paying his wages and sending him on his way. Steyn tells Kate about his problem and Kate is impressed and Steyn begins a relationship with Kate despite his acute clumsiness around women.

Xi eventually finds himself at God's Window, 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 tribe and receives a warm welcome from his family.



The Gods Must Be Crazy was released in South Africa in 1980 by Ster Kinekor Pictures; it became a box-office record breaker in that country.[1]:77 For the film's overseas release, the original Afrikaans dialogue was dubbed into English, and voiceover work was provided for !Kung and Tswana lines.[1]:76 At the time, it broke all box office records in Japan and it broke all box office records for a foreign film in the United States.

In mid-November 1986, The Gods Must Be Crazy was released on videocassette in the U.S. by CBS/Fox[4] through their Playhouse Video label.[5]


Based on 19 reviews, The Gods Must Be Crazy has carried a 95% "Fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes.[6] Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, and said in his conclusion: "It might be easy to make a farce about screwball happenings in the desert, but it's a lot harder to create a funny interaction between nature and human nature. This movie's a nice little treasure".[7]


Despite the film's having grossed over $100 million worldwide, Nǃxau reportedly earned less than $2,000 for his starring role. Before his death, Uys supplemented this with an additional $20,000 as well as a monthly stipend.[8][9]:186



  1. ^ a b c Pfaff, Françoise (2004). Focus on African Films. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21668-0. 
  2. ^ Gugler, Josef (2003). African Film: Re-imagining a Continent. Indiana University Press. p. 74. ISBN 0-253-21643-5. Retrieved 2010-06-13. 
  3. ^ a b Gorelik, Boris (12 July 2014). "Jamie se treffer: Met Uys, ja – die wêreld in". Rapport (newspaper). Media24. Retrieved 2014-07-14. 
  4. ^ Hunt, Dennis (14 November 1986). "'Gods Must Be Crazy' Drops Into Video Stores; 'SpaceCamp' Is Set for Modest Blast-Off". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. p. K18. Retrieved 2010-08-07. (registration required (help)). 
  5. ^ James, Caryn (14 July 1987). "The Gods Must Be Crazy yea(1981): Home Videos; Sophisticated Silliness". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  6. ^ "Reviews for The Gods Must Be Crazy". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2016-06-20. 
  7. ^ "The Gods Must Be Crazy Movie Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  8. ^ "Movies of the 80s [Flash Back Wednesday]: The Gods Must Be Crazy". Clue Magazine. March 14, 2012. 
  9. ^ Lee, Richard (2003). The Dobe Ju/'hoansi. Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology (3rd ed.). Wadsworth Publishing. ISBN 0-03-032284-7. 

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