Cast: Alexander Michaletos, Eamonn Walker, Campbell Scott, Hope Davis
Director: Carroll Ballard
Theatrical release: 2005; available on DVD
Carroll Ballard is a director known for beautifully visualized films shot in dramatically scenic locations (The Black Stallion; Fly Away Home!). With Duma, Ballard shows us parts of the South African landscape. The story behind this scenery may not be as well known as that of the Arabian horse, but it's familiar nonetheless: a young boy and his father rescue a cheetah cub they name Duma. After raising it on their farm, the father decides the full-grown cat must be returned to the wild. Ultimately, the tale becomes the story that challenges all of us: coming to terms with love, loss, and letting go.
Duma is an adventure everyone can enjoy, made energetic through the eyes of Xan (pronounced "zan," which is short for "Alexander"). After 12-year-old Xan loses his father to a sudden and devastating illness, he takes off on his own to return Duma to the wild. As he heads cross-country to the spot where he and his father first found the cub, Xan encounters a river of rapids and crocodiles, as well as the ocean of arid desert. Out of the heat mirage appears a drifter whose motives are more than a bit mysterious. But, of course, the lessons Xan learns from the drifter are a valuable part of his journey.
Even as we enjoy the incredible rapport between boy and big cat, we also behold the harsh beauty of South Africa and face the fear of the many unknowns in this world of Xan and Duma.
While the DVD provides only a few 'extended scenes' and the theatrical trailer, the website for the movie offers a photo gallery, more about the story, access to the movie trailer, and many downloads, including screen-saver "wallpapers" and PDFs of a teacher's guide and a worksheet about Africa designed for grades 3 through 6.