The Great Dance: A hunter’s story is the 2000 documentary by Craig and Damon Foster that tells the story of three !Xo San Bushman hunters who “outrun their thirst” as they track an animal on foot, running for hours through the blazing desert sun, until their exhausted quarry collapses and they can make the final kill. The hunt is much more than just a way of feeding the tribe, however. During their exhausting chase, the San enter a trance state in which they feel at one with their quarry—anticipating his moves, feeling his emotional state. Even before they ingest the animal physically, they have taken him in, spiritually. The film also displays the incredible wealth of knowledge the San people possess about the world around them.
The !Xo San of the Kalahari desert are often referred to as “The First People,” since they are the earliest inhabitants of Africa, having lived in the same region for 30,000 years. Made in association with the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa, the film represents the first time this persistence hunt has been filmed.
One reviewer described “The Great Dance” as “a moving meditation on the spiritual practices of attention and connections. These indigenous people teach us the art of being totally alert to the report of the senses. They also show us what can be gained by establishing an intimate relationship with the land and the animals that reside there.”
The Great Dance can be watched free online through various platforms. Here is one: http://www.hulu.com/watch/506629.
The Good Lie is a fictionalized account of a group of “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan” who flee the brutal attacks of government soldiers to travel on foot to a refugee camp in Kenya, where they reside for more than a decade until being sponsored to come to the U.S. Their arrival in “the land of opportunity” is a mixed blessing at best. The loss of their relationship with the land they love and the communal life of their culture—which they had maintained even in the refugee camp—is both a tragedy for the “lucky” sponsored boys, but also a stark portrayal of the shallowness and materialism of our own culture, where the need to make money trumps all other concerns—even what it means to be human. God Grew Tired of Us is a documentary that tells essentially the same story, in a nonfiction format. Both films illustrate the richness of indigenous African culture in social and spiritual terms and the relative poverty of our own.
The answer, of course, is “You would change the way it educates its children.” That’s what the United States government did in the 19th century when it forced Native American children into government boarding schools. Today, volunteers build schools in traditional societies around the world, convinced that school is the only way to a “better” life for indigenous children. Indeed, one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to “achieve universal primary education,” which is almost universally accepted as the “only way out of poverty.”
But this goal, laudable as it seems, hides several key assumptions that may not be true: one, that indigenous children are not being educated in their villages at home; two, that the Western definitions of “poverty” and “wealth” are universally accepted; and three, has the model of education even worked in U.S. society, let alone deserving of replication all over the world?
Filmed in the Buddhist culture of Ladakh in the northern Indian Himalayas, the film weaves the voices of Ladakhi people through a conversation between four carefully chosen original thinkers: anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence; Helena Norberg-Hodge and Vandana Shiva, both recipients of the Right Livelihood Award for their work with traditional peoples in India; and Manish Jain, a former architect of education programs with UNESCO, USAID, and the World Bank. Schooling the world delivers a challenging, sometimes funny, and ultimately disturbing look at the effects of modern education on the world’s last sustainable indigenous cultures.
The film is available for purchase from the website, where you can also view the trailer here: http://schoolingtheworld.org/film/hd-trailer/