Before South African filmmaker Jamie Uys took the art-house world by storm with The Gods Must Be Crazy, he made quite a few films, including his best-known work, Animals Are Beautiful People. The 1974 film is a decidedly offbeat documentary — a serio-comic look at the animals of the Namib Desert in southern Africa.
It’s also something of an attempt at a live-action Fantasia in its efforts to blend its documentary footage with classical music. Sometimes the film is just too precious for its own good (as when a beetle comes to a halt to the sound of screeching tires), and other times the choices of music and the application are, to put it mildly, uninspired. It’s similarly hard to escape the fact that there’s a sense of callousness to the whole thing (something common to all wildlife documentaries), especially in the sequence where an elaborate nest is (rather obviously) set ablaze to recreate a natural disaster.
But it’s overall such a pleasant change of pace from the usual documentary that it’s a film worth seeing — all the more so if you’re a fan of The Gods Must Be Crazy.
— reviewed by Ken Hanke