Notwithstanding the excessive cuteness of the anthropomorphizing title, Animals are Beautiful People is an entertaining, original documentary about life in the harsh conditions of southwest Africa’s Namib Desert. The brainchild of filmmaker Jamie Uys (who, with narrator Paddy O’Byrne, went on to make The Gods Must Be Crazy), Animals are Beautiful People combines sometimes remarkable documentary footage, tongue-in-cheek but informative narration, and Fantasia-style musical accompaniment.
Highlights include daredevil cartwheeling baboons, the remarkable partnership of the badger and the honey-guide bird, and the astonishingly intricate lengths to which the Kalahari bushmen go to find water. There’s a sequence with the animal residents of the fertile Kavango flood plains intoxicated on fermented fruit, and footage of an ostrich mating dance that strikingly resembles Fantasia’s animated ostrich ballet.
A haunting climactic episode features the death march of the pelican chicks, who aren’t yet able to fly when the shallow lake in which they were reared dries up too soon. Hopelessly wandering into the desert, most die off while O’Byrne describes the weather conditions that could bring life-saving rain. Even when the rain comes, to the rejoicing of the desert, there’s a curious lack of closure regarding the fate of the surviving pelican chicks. Despite this caveat, Animals are Beautiful People makes fine family viewing.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.