What also makes “Duma” stand out is its direction, which demonstrates not only skill but also a woman’s touch.  Ballard shows great sensitivity and doesn’t back away from tough issues, like the complex themes of home, loss and death.  She coaxes excellent performances from her actors, and doesn’t fall into the trap of anthropomorphizing the cheetah, as so many directors would.  Any emotions she shows are real, and stem from the characters – not some projected sentiment we think the animal might be feeling. 

Additionally, “Duma” earns distinction due to its acting, which is outstanding on every level.  Although Alex Michaletos is a newcomer, he’s also a natural, who unlike so many other child actors, does not over-act.  As a result, we’re able to enjoy the story as it unfolds, without distractions.  Also, as tempting as it must have been, Davis and Scott eschew melodrama in favor of subtle, credible performances, even in the most dramatic of circumstances.  And Walker – who is fabulous – almost (but not quite) steals the film with his thoughtful, moving performance.

It’s difficult to find fault with a film which, in addition to all this, also has stellar cinematography that even manages to avoid the stereotypical “African sunset” shot, but still leaves us with a lasting impression of Africa’s haunting landscapes.  Even its message is a good one.  “Duma” tells us that life is hard, and that change is painful but necessary.  It also teaches us about inner strength, and the ability to go far beyond that which we ever believed possible.

Overall, an outstanding film that not only deserves a place in every family library, but is also destined to become a classic.

AUDIENCE:  6 and up

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol:    None
  • Language/Profanity:   None
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  None
  • Violence:   Various threats of violence that never materialize. A main character dies and boy’s life is in jeopardy several times, but he is never even injured.