CHOSEN BY SHANI VAN STRAATEN
When I first entered the Natural History space I had little knowledge of nature films aside from the occasional Sunday night blaze on the couch; enjoying the nature-gasms of big blue-chip films usually delivered by Attenborough and the BBC.
I joined the (now defunct) Natural History Unit Africa as a 25 year old. What followed was a major education in the genre and looking back I am so grateful for this experience and the way it has completely changed my perspective and relationship to the natural world.
At NHU, I had the honour of working with Craig and Damon Foster. I went home and watched all their films so I didn’t look like a total rookie.
The Great Dance: A Hunter’s Story blew my mind, humbled me and made me realise I know very little about the natural order of the continent I live on.
Made almost 20 years ago, this film is one of the most important films to come out of the South African film renaissance in the late 1990s and should be included in film schools worldwide.
Following three San (Bushmen) hunters in the Central Kalahari, the film explores not only the incredible endurance and knowledge involved in the ancient hunting techniques of Africa’s first peoples, but also the spiritual relationship between the hunter and the hunted, humans and our fellow inhabitants and landscape.
The film also touches on the function of trance in humans’ primal activities, as mentioned in Christopher McDougall’s famous book Born to Run.
The Foster brothers spent close to three years living in the Kalahari, and hold a reverence for the African voice that should be the gold standard for filmmakers today.
Years on, after watching hundreds and hundreds of hours of natural history, this film ripens even more in wisdom and importance.
The fact that you can only watch many African films illegally or order a DVD speaks to the many challenges African film faces.
The African continent is the mecca of this genre and yet more recently native filmmakers have little choice other than servicing international productions that come to Africa. I hope audiences use this site to seek out African voices telling stories from the birthplace of humankind.
If you are African and a film is geo-blocked in your country, use this site to petition the producers to give back the stories that belong to us.
If you are looking to film in Africa, use local filmmakers to assist you in your project.
And if you love nature films, please take a few minutes to support the much needed organisations that are fighting to keep the subjects of our favourite films in existence.
ABOUT SHANI VAN STRAATEN
Shani was the festival manager of the dearly missed Wild Talk Africa, the continent's biggest natural history film festival.
She's since founded Valkyrie Productions and is also working as foundation manager for the Kevin Richardson Foundation, which seeks to protect lions and their habitat.
She was also the production manager on Bryan Little's award-winning documentary, Fokofpolisiekar: Forgive Them For They Know Not What They Do.
'THE GREAT DANCE' AWARDS
:: WWF Golden Panda Best Film Award, Wildscreen, 2000
:: Delegate's Choice Award, Wildscreen, 2000
:: Best Script, Wildscreen, 2000
:: Audience Award, Encounters, 2001
:: Animal Planet Human & Animal Award nominee, Wildscreen, 2000
:: Best Music nominee, Wildscreen, 2000
:: Top 100 Films, Metacritic, 2000
:: Over 35 international awards
:: Broke SA box office records for a local documentary
:: Directors: Craig & Damon Foster
:: Writer: Jeremy Evans
:: DoPs: Craig & Damon Foster
:: Editor: Damon Foster
:: Music: Barry Donnelly
:: Karoha Langwane
:: Xlhoase Xlhokhne
:: !Nqate Xqamxebe
:: Sello Maake Ka-ncube (narrator)