Have You Rented...DUMA

Reviewed By Humby

Carroll Ballard was a contemporary and classmate George Lucas, Walter Murch and John Milius. A fine filmmaker, Ballard has never really been given the credit he deserves.
With a background in photography, his films are visually stunning, containing a beauty difficult to capture in words. His movies are few and far between (THE BLACK STALLION, NEVER CRY WOLF and FLY AWAY HOME), so you would think that when he does put out a movie, people would notice.
When it came time for the release of his newest film, DUMA, last year, it was not only overlooked, it was basically shoved to the side by the studio. The release was pulled and a straight to video release was planned until a handful of critics got a chance to see the film, gave it rave reviews and campaigned for a theatrical release. What did the studio do? They released in on one screen in Chicago, expandingit to a few screens before pulling it. Last week the film hit DVD and I got my chance to see it.
DUMA is a simple story, but one of unspeakable heart. It revolves around a young boy, Xan, who rescues a baby cheetah. The cheetah, Duma, is raised and cared for by the boy and his family, but the time comes when Duma must return home to the desert. Xan takes a journey with the now fully-grown cheetah into the heart of the deadly desert to return Duma to the life that he deserves.

This is a beautiful film.
The photography will take your breath away, with its landscapes and vastness of desert. No mechanical animals are used. Everything is filmed using a real cheetah, along with other creatures throughout. This adds not only a documentary feel to the movie, but there is nothing to take you out of the film and remind you it’s not real. DUMA is not a movie that you watch, but one you experience.
The other aspect of beauty in DUMA that captured me was the story of the boy and his love for his unusual pet. Everything in Xan’s life is falling apart. He is trying to deal with the death of his father and a move from the country into the big city. When it comes time for him to let go of his best friend, he embarks on more than just a journey of destination, but one of self-discovery. On this voyage alone into the desert, Xan becomes an adult. There is no doubt that the person he was has forever been changed. Over 100 minutes, you get to watch a boy become an adult.

It is a shame that DUMA was overlooked and I hope that it finds an audience now that people have the chance to check it out. It is not a great movie, but it is a special one. Like him or not… know him or not… Carroll Ballard is a unique filmmaker who makes beautiful films. It’s time for people to take notice of his talent.


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