The Gods Must Be Crazy, and the four sequels you might not know about
October 18, 2013 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Roger Ebert thought highly of the first two films, the first he summarized as "a movie that begins with a Coke bottle falling from the heavens, and ends with a Jeep up in a tree," and called the South African slapstick film "a nice little treasure." He said the second was for people who like "happy movies better than grim and violent ones." After The Gods Must Be Crazy (YT, Crackle) and its sequel (YT), three unofficial sequels were produced in the early 1990s in Hong Kong and filmed in Cantonese, still featuring Nǃxau ǂToma throughout the continued series, and Coke bottles also feature prominently. As could be expected, these knock-off sequels integrate parts of Chinese culture into the films for the predictable humorous cultural conflicts, from hopping vampires to nefarious panda-nabbers.

The first HK sequel, Crazy Safari (YT, English dub), is still set in Africa, but introduces Chinese elements, including a jiangshi, also known as a hopping vampire or zombie. The second, Crazy Hong Kong (YT, low-res Eng. dub, mis-titled as #3), transports N!xau to Hong Kong for more slapstick adventures and clashing cultures. The final film, The Gods Must Be Funny in China (YT, English subs), N!xau is in mainland China, where he teams up with a Chinese panda trainer to fight off bad guys. If you're not sure where to start with these spin/knock-offs, this fan site has brief details on the movies, plus a personal ranking of best to worst.

For a further tangent from the original series, There's a Zulu on My Stoep (YT playlist) had no real relation to the series, but is sometimes marketed as The Gods Must Be Crazy (Part IV).

If all this culture-clash slapstick has you aching for a bit of reality, here is a good article utilizing The Gods Must be Crazy to reveal the complexity of apartheid South Africa, and a 25 minute documentary focused on N!xau ǂToma's life, Journey to Nyae Nyae (YT), filmed shortly before N!xau passed away.
posted by filthy light thief (21 comments total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
Well done, filthy light thief... thanks...
posted by HuronBob at 8:45 PM on October 18, 2013

posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:31 PM on October 18, 2013

...and I'm amazed this is the first gods must be crazy post to mefi. A great FPP hiding in plain sight all these years, waiting.

I love this!
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:55 PM on October 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

I realize it's not really the point of this post, but reading Ebert's review of the second film, I can practically hear him speaking those words from the balcony.

I think I only ever saw the first one, but if Ebert thought that highly of the second, I should probably see that, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:08 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pepsi blew.
posted by hypersloth at 10:15 PM on October 18, 2013

A Land Rover up in a tree, damnit!
posted by Harald74 at 10:22 PM on October 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

(But good post, FLT!)
posted by Harald74 at 10:22 PM on October 18, 2013

To me the second one felt a bit too "let's recreate clever originality by way of schtick". Not that there weren't silly elements in the original, by any means, but (as I struggle to recall many years after having last seen either) to me it seemed more adroit than the sequel.

I had no idea about the other movies, so I have no opinion of them.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:23 PM on October 18, 2013

I never, ever thought I'd say these words, but... now I've seen everything.

Or at least read it.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:29 PM on October 18, 2013

Gods Must Be Crazy III would make a good double feature with Hausu, in the "films that need to be seen to believe they exist" category.
posted by benzenedream at 11:18 PM on October 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

A little extra detail: in John Marshall's documentary N!ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman, you get a brief behind-the-scenes look at the filming of The Gods Must Be Crazy, including a little of what the actors are saying about it. At the moment, you can watch it here (39:00-42:00). Your link to the 'good article on the complexity of apartheid' mentions Marshall's reaction to the film, and I think that's really important context for it--while appreciating that it was a comedy and not to be taken seriously, anthropologists generally weren't fond of the movie (that's Richard B. Lee). But several decades later, those Hong Kong sequels and the documentary about N!xau are certainly worth knowing about. Great post.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 12:10 AM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'm scared to watch Gods Must Be Crazy again, the story has so much potential for racism I have to wonder how it holds up.
posted by goo at 2:03 AM on October 19, 2013

I haven't seen the first movie in ages, but one bit of slapstick has stuck with me all these years. There's a group of guerrillas who are going to storm into a room, and they kick in a set of double doors...

...which immediately bounce back off the walls and slam closed in their faces.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:33 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I just learned that I have gone all my life thinking I had seen The Gods Must Be Crazy when, in fact it turns out I have only seen The Gods Must Be Crazy II.
posted by 256 at 5:58 AM on October 19, 2013

I'm still waiting for the first five Leonards.
posted by symbioid at 7:19 AM on October 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

goo: I'm scared to watch Gods Must Be Crazy again, the story has so much potential for racism I have to wonder how it holds up.

If you want a lot more context for the film before re-watching it, I highly recommend reading this article on viewing the film in the context of apartheid South Africa. It notes that the film really glosses over the realities of the apartheid, but I don't think racism is an issue.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:20 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's still the highest grossing South African film. I would hazard a guess that this has to do with the strict regulations and censorship that still exist surrounding filmmaking here. Most recently "Of Good Report" was banned (notably the first film banned since 1994, but less technical bans have existed and continue to exist), and many South African filmmakers I know won't try edgy material or anything remotely interesting for fear of their work getting silenced.

But cultural appropriation is always lucrative!
posted by mrfuga0 at 7:25 AM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

So glad to learn about these other sequels. I think GMBC2 made me laugh harder than any movie ever has. Unfortunately my wife doesn't like these movies, but I'm about to make her sit through all of them.

(Filthy, I want to kiss you.)
posted by neuron at 11:37 AM on October 19, 2013

FWIW, I disliked the sequel quite a bit. I wish I could un-watch it. I found it to be a cheap effort to duplicate the magic of the original. Not, like, Buttercup's Baby bad, just run-of-the-mill sequel bad.
posted by waldo at 8:45 PM on October 19, 2013

GMBC 1 & 2 are a little corny and twee, but are still strangely enjoyable films, that I have on DVD and rewatch every few years. (Haven't seen the rest of the sequels, and not sure I want to.)

The incredible boabab trees (both films, especially film 2) and the honey badger (film 2) are standout memories for me. Plus the general landscape, because it reminds a lot of where I grew up.
posted by Pouteria at 3:12 AM on October 20, 2013

I loved GMBC so much. And my step-mother hated it. Thought it was 'stupid'.

I was 8 years old, and suddenly realized I never really had to listen to her opinions again. (She loved the word 'stupid', as much as I now hate it)
posted by DigDoug at 6:18 AM on October 21, 2013

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