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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 30 May 2006
Viewers will probably we unable to get to the end of the exquisite Duma without having a tear in one's eye. I was a sopping mess most the way through as I watched one of 1995's most stunning movies. Duma opens with some close-ups of adorable cheetah cubs, so instantly you're captivated, but the film is so much more than cute.

Duma is also a fabulous story of the mysteries of human existence, the often-indefinable search for home and the habitual harshness and ruggedness of the animal world. It's a soulful, piercingly beautiful movie, a film of rare beauty as it tells the story about a boy and his cheetah, a boy and his patrimony, and his search to reconnect after calamity befalls him.

Xan (Alexander Michaletos), and Peter his father (Campbell Scott) live on a farm in South Africa. One night after hurtling through the countryside in a vintage sport scar they spot a cub in the center of the highway. After plucking the cub from danger, Xan brings the rescue home, where his mother, Kristin (Hope Davis) tends to the precious little animal.

Encouraged by Peter, Xan domesticates the cat, Duma, who quickly grows into a soccer-playing, motorcycle-racing wonderment. Now named Duma the time soon comes for him to be let back into the wild, After all, what is cute today will become the wild, veracious thing of tomorrow.

However, tragedy strikes before Peter can help Zan set him free, and what follows next is nothing short of astonishing. The boy and the cheetah end up tearing across the desert on Peter's motorcycle (with Duma in the sidecar), treacherously alone. When they run out of fuel and then water, they soon meet a wayfarer named Rip (Eamonn Walker) who comes equipped with a bush baby and an obscure past.

The three then embark on an epic journey, sort of Huck Finn like across the harsh African wilderness hoping to find a place Duma can call home. The film is really a masterpiece and as Xan on his trek learns about life, death, courage, responsibility, love and his own wild nature. . In this scorched land, Xan becomes his truest, most natural self as talks to his beloved pet freely, without worry or self-consciousness. It's a dream world for a young boy.

Xan, Duma and Rip must face many challenges as their quest unfolds - dangerous rivers, and crocodiles, the worry finding food, and the sense that betrayal could come at any moment. Newcomer Alex Michaeletos turns in a beautifully understated performance as the troubled Xan - he feels so out-of-place in the modern world with only Duma as his real friend. Hope Davis and Campbell Scott are also standouts as Xan's devoted and loving parents, and of course there's the magisterial cheetah.

Just as mesmeric are the sweeping African landscapes that seem to swallow both Xan and Duma up as their epic physical and emotional journey plays out. Using both intimate close-ups and expansive long shots director Carroll Ballard makes the most of the dazzling surroundings.

Like all those cheetahs the landscape, with its seemingly endless ocher grasslands and shocks of bright blue and emerald, as shot by cinematographer Werner Maritz appears strangely and bewitchingly timeless, just as the friendship does between this gutsy, fearless boy and his big, beautiful and loving cat. Mike Leonard May 06.
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on 10 October 2005
Having seen the Duma trailer at I really wanted to see this film in the cinema. Regretfully WB decided against a wide release. Instead WB released the film almost immediately to DVD. What could I do but pre-order the DVD at I am pleased that I did!
Admitted, born in the seventies I have seen Black Stallion and Fly Away Home and I like both films. The reason that I like these films? I also like to see films with stunning special effects and breathtaking speed. But only films like Duma or Wondrous Oblivion give you a happy feeling and understanding of our world.
Expect a very beautiful shot film and not more dialogue than is needed for the story. What I really like about the film is that it leaves enough space to kindle your imagination. In the film you will not see what is exactly happening to Xan's father or see Xan and Duma leave the city and travel to his parent's old farm to get his father's motorcycle. Not everything has to be told and visualized to understand the story. This is left to your or your child's intelligence and imagination. Duma does not treat people as if they lack imagination. This is what makes it such a fine film to see.
It is a great pity that Duma is difficult to sell for a wide cinema release. However, I dearly hope WB will continue working with directors like Ballard to make great little films that at least after a limited release like DUMA can still be enjoyed by people of all ages on DVD. Better this than no more fine films like Duma at all for us to enjoy!
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on 8 December 2009
The film has some very good filming of nature, but there is also sadness, and danger. The guy that Xan encounters in the desert is very strange, and I was disturbed by what was done to him. Contrary to what the picture on sleeve of the DVD suggests and the rating, I would not recommend this film for young children, if at all.
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on 11 August 2010
I loved this film - I keep it for visiting children, and it seems to be enjoyed most by those over eight.
It is rather sad - but the ending is satisfactory, and the story itself very exciting. All filmed in Southern Africa, and very authentic (I used to live there, so was prepared to be critical.)
The photography is superb, and the cheetah (the main character, really) is just amazingly beautiful and beguiling. The little boy star is an excellent actor, too.
This is one of those films that deserves to be better known - highly recommended.
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I readily admit that I am not a big animal lover, but director Carroll Ballard has made a solid example of a movie in which a boy grows up because of his relationship with the animal he loves. There are a lot of these movies: sometimes the boy is a girl, and the animal can be just about anything you want from a traditional pet like a dog or just about any wild or exotic animal that you can name. You can also make the location any place on Earth. With "Duma" we have a story about a young boy whose has made a cheetah his pet, with the setting being South Africa (the northern part in fact). Actually, the location matters more than the animal in this 2005 film, because the boy and the cheetah are joined for most of their journey by somebody else who becomes a key part of their grand adventure.

After the death of its mother, a cheetah cub is found by young Xan (Alex Michaletos) and his father (Campbell Scott). They live on a farm in South Africa and Xan raises the cub, who is eventually named Duma (much is made of finding the right name and the responsibility that comes from such an act). Xan understands that the day will come when Duma will have to return to the wild, but circumstances force their separation much earlier than the boy anticipated. Seeing the only alternative as being the death of Duma, Xan takes his father's motorcycle with its sidecar to get Duma back to the Kalahari Desert. Of course, the journey will not be easy. The immediate bad news is that the motorcycle runs out of case. The good news is that Xan and Duma encounter Ripkuna (Eamonn Walker), who is wandering in the desert trying to find his way home to his own family. Consequently, there are interpersonal dynamics at work between the trio that add depth to the story of Xan trying to get Duma back to his home in the wild.

The film is based upon the autobiographical novel "How It Was With Dooms" by Xan Hopcraft and his mother Carol Cawthra Hopcraft, although I do not know enough to comment on how "true" what we see on the screen might be. After all, there is a limited amount of direction that I would think you can give to a cheetah (or four different cheetahs as is the case in this film), and it is serendipity to get footage of one chasing after a gazelle. I certainly wish there had been more opportunities to see the cheetah do its thing. But there are only a couple of times that Duma gets to fun flat out at full speech (they can do 64 miles per hour for up to five hundred yards), and they are some of the most memorable sequences in the film. The problem is that when Duma gets up to full speed, he leaves Xan far behind, and that would ruin the story. The key relationship is obviously between Xan and Duma, but once they meet up the most significant interaction comes between Xan and Ripkuna. For younger children who can watch such scenes and dream of having such adventures themselves "Duma" will be much more entertaining than for those of us who keeping thinking having a cheetah as a pet is a dangerous idea.
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on 1 July 2011
Duma is a well written film that manages to combine the "aahh" factor of the baby cheetah that gets adopted, with a storyline and mood that doesn't condescend. There are plenty of serious moments where a real sense of danger is felt, and you aren't quite sure how the story will turn out. It is, put simply, a great story, very well told.
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on 31 October 2010
Great film for young and old alike - perhaps not the very young - hey ho
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on 30 May 2014
First saw this film a few years ago with my friend. Me and him used to go and get a tub of chocolate ice cream from the shop and go and sit on his bed and watch films. We must have watched this at least 6 times! This was our favourite by a long way! Such a sweet little boy who has an amazing but tough adventure for his best friend encountering a few obstacles on the way. It is lovely. Ordered this as going through a rough time at the moment with this friend. Made me cry as it is sweet but also for the memories. Will definitely recommend for a light hearted afternoon film to snuggle up to. :D
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on 28 May 2013
We have an eight year old girl and a ten year old boy and we all enjoyed this film. It is about a boy who adopts a cheetah cub and the story of him getting the cheetah back into the wild. It is very well acted, with beautiful scenery and a well thought out story, suspense and tears.
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on 11 April 2012
Watched it with my children 3 and 12 years old. Me and my 12 years old liked the story. There is a heavy plot, but a happy ending. The main character a 12 years old boy was a real surviver, quite impressive.
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