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No, it’s not about Russian politics

May 19, 2006

Duma may have quickly disappeared from movie theaters last year, but this fine animal adventure should find an extended life on DVD. Director Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf) artfully tells the story of a resourceful young boy in South Africa who befriends an orphaned cheetah. (Duma is Swahili for “cheetah.”)

The indelible animal and landscape cinematography might just inspire viewers to book flights to South Africa, but the movie is more than just a pretty travelogue. The cast is very solid, the story simple but quietly affecting. Respected Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan even rewarded Duma the number-one spot on his top 10 movies of 2005.

Of course, the star of the film is the cheetah. Duma’s adaptation to his human companions is as captivating as his celebrated speed. (In fact, the ancient Egyptians and European royalty centuries later kept cheetahs for hunting purposes.) As is common for such projects, Duma was played by five different cheetahs.

Duma is very loosely based on the children’s book How It Was With Dooms, a memoir about a cheetah living with a family on their South African ranch.

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