A Kalahari Family

Director in Person
Directed by John Marshall.
US, 2003, digital video, color, 120 min.

A Kalahari Family is the long-awaited five-part, six-hour film by distinguished ethnographic filmmaker, John Marshall. It provides an extraordinary record of fifty years of radical social upheavals in the lives of the Ju/'hoansi Bushmen of southern Africa. The Harvard Film Archive is pleased to welcome director John Marshall in person, for this screening of the third and the fifth chapters of this astonishing story.

In 1951, the Marshall family, including their teenage son, John, set out to document the lives of the Bushmen of the Kalahari in South West Africa, now Namibia. In the half century since, Marshall has followed the once independent Ju/'hoansi hunter-gatherers through dispossession, confinement to a homeland, the chaos of war, and finally the perils of a misguided "development" project.

Despite the growing number of Ju/'hoan farming communities during the 1980s, the South West African Department of Nature Conservation attempts to create a game reserve on Ju/'hoan territory. The plan is to encourage Ju/'hoansi to act like "Bushmen," and hunt for the amusement of tourists, rather than raising livestock or crops. The film follows the people as they seek to control their traditional lands through grass roots organizing.

Although Namibia is now independent, and receiving vast amounts of international aid, the Ju/'hoansi continue to struggle. It becomes clear that the development programs do not benefit Ju/'hoan farms. Promised great wealth, Ju/'hoansi vote to establish a nature conservancy. When their profits are a meager 75 Namibian dollars ($10.50) each, Ju/'hoansi ask, "Where is all the money going?"