19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A boy, his cheetah, and a stranger in the Kalhari Desert of South Africa,
This review is from: Duma [DVD]  (DVD)
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.