Might of the Hunter


A grassroots refutation of Discovery Channel/National Geographic dispassion, The Great Dance: A Hunter’s Story is hot and sweaty with fetching curves. From the opening shots—a series of kaleidoscopic video views that suggest a camera tunneling through either a nightscape or someone’s digestive tract—the hyperfocal visuals clear out any thought that this might be PBS. Lensing in cooperation with the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in South Africa, Craig and Damon Foster spent three years alongside the !Xo San bushmen in the central Kalahari. At times their technique implies an equal amount of time taking in extreme sports videos. For all the intensive wrangling of digital-video footage and data, it appears as if a good deal of the shoot was spent breaking the portable cameras—as evidenced by certain perilous shots, like the ones that go nose-to-nose with a lion or a lens-pecking vulture. The !Xo have never been documented from the inside out, Coke-promoting tale The Gods Must Be Crazy notwithstanding. The Great Dance mostly covers the “chasing hunt,” a process in which three hunters, !Nqate, Karoha, and Xlhoase, track an animal through shimmering, sweltering heat waves, with minimal water, in an attempt to take over its mind and wear it out. The photography not only inhabits the eyes of the hunters but takes on the point of view of beetles, scorpions, cheetahs, even raindrops. The lens distortions are so intense that when the camera tracks a real-life cheetah close-up, the animal seems to house two battling dwarves. The only generic doc tic here is the jollified narration by South African actor Sella Maake Ka-Ncube, which resembles the least effort by Annie‘s Geoffrey “Punjab” Holder.

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