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Bushmen of
the Kalahari


by Pamela Smith

It's always the same when you start to edit your holiday videos: the one shot you thought you had captured is not there. Your film will just not be quite what you had imagined. When I first joined Epsom Movie Makers in 2012 I had not edited video for years and now I had the time to spend and knew I had to produce something for the 2013 travel competition. From all the hours of travel video I find it difficult to make an initial selection and choose what will make an interesting short film.

Bushmen of the Kalahari

We had spent an afternoon and evening with bushmen who live near Jack's Camp on the edge of the Kalahari in Botswana. These people still lead a nomadic life, moving around the desert depending on the seasons and, for part of the year, they stay near the camp. In return for demonstrating their bush craft to visitors, they are given some land on which to build their huts. I filmed them as we walked with them into the grey, dusty desert and took about 40 minutes of video. The challenge is always what to leave out when editing as it all seemed interesting to us. I began by selecting the best clips that showed how they search for food and water by digging up tubers and roots, tracking and hunting animals, and making a fire. Much of the hunting activity included shots of other camp guests and so I decided to leave that out and concentrate on the demonstrations involving only the bushmen.
The old man, Cobra, who had been a friend of the eponymous Jack, was clearly a character and he was keen to show off his skills with scorpions, not one of my favourite creatures. The highlight of the video comes when he puts a live scorpion into his mouth and cleans the sand grains from its eyes with his tongue.

Bushmen of the Kalahari This is guaranteed to receive a gasp of horror from the viewers, much as it did when he initially did this for the visitors. One of the local guides provided a running commentary and I was able to use this in some places to describe what was happening. Other parts of the original sound track were unusable either because I wasn't near enough or there were others talking over him. Fortunately I was able to get near enough to film the guide pointing out the parts of the scorpion as others were too scared to come closer. I missed the shot of another old man squeezing liquid from the tuber into his mouth which would have better completed another sequence. This was the shot I wished I had taken.

As the afternoon wore on the sun began to drop and the light changed dramatically. This meant that, when editing, I had to keep the order of events roughly as filmed so that the changes in light and colour did not appear too obvious during the finished film.
Towards dusk two young bushmen made a fire by rubbing sticks together which made excellent video although, in retrospect, I would shorten the sequence as I think it would be even more effective. From the 40 minutes of clips, I used about 5 minutes to make this part of the film and, on reflection, I would also shorten the dance sequence at the end as it is poor quality because of the low light. We felt so privileged to witness this that I was tempted to include too much. The "Trance Dance" is not something that the bushmen will perform to order; rather they will approach the camp manager every 10 days or so and ask if they can dance that night. Any guests are welcome to go along and watch as the group begin the ritual, rhythmical tramping around the fire. It was eerie to see how the men fell, literally, into the trance and had to be guided away from the flames. It is difficult to believe that the younger generations will continue the practice for much longer and so the film may, in time, provide a historical record of a dying culture. Being able to preserve and share such rituals in pictures and sound is partly what drives me to make videos.

 

 

SECOND TAKE December 2013

PROGRAMME REVIEW
NONSUCH REVIVAL
THE MAKING OF SACRED AND PROFANE
A DAY TRIP TO CHICHESTER
SUCCESS ON A PLATE
BIAFF 2006 - A MEMBER'S VIEW
THE SURREY FILM & VIDEO FESTIVAL 2005
THE FUTURE IS RED
COURT SHORTS
TIME OUT
We came, We shot, We chomped
BOB'S BASIC EDITING GUIDE
My Introduction to the Wonder ful World of DV!
Grandeur of the Granada
FILMS ARE LIKE ELEPHANTS
How 305 Sqaudron was made
THE BIG FIVE "O"
MUSIC COPYRIGHT
NORTH V SOUTH 2008
HOT CHESTNUTS
WIDER AND WIDER
FALLEN ANGELS
EARLY CINE RAMBLINGS
MORE