DER Documentary

A Kalahari Family

A Kalahri Family
launch preview view a trailer for the series

From the !Kung collection
a five-part series by John Marshall
color, 360 min, 1951-2001

A closed-captioned version of this DVD set is available. Please to order.

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
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A Kalahari Family is a five-part, six-hour series documenting 50 years in the lives of the Ju/'hoansi of southern Africa, from 1951 to 2000. These once independent hunter-gatherers experience dispossession, confinement to a homeland, and the chaos of war. Then as hope for Namibian independence and the end of apartheid grows, Ju/'hoansi fight to establish farming communities and reclaim their traditional lands. The series challenges stereotypes of "Primitive Bushmen" with images of the development projects Ju/'hoansi are carrying out themselves.

"There are two kinds of films. Films that show us in skins are lies. Films that show the truth show us with cattle, with farms, with our own water, making our own plans." — Oma Tsamkxao

"The old life was too thin. We wanted foods that made us strong. We wanted clothes like other people... A new life called us to Tjum!kui." — Oma Tsamkxao

"We heard stories about whites killing Ju/'hoansi. We were traveling to find bush foods when /Ui Legs told us white people had come. He said you would return to look for us and stay a long time. We were afraid you would capture or kill us. I'm glad you whites were different." — Oma Tsamkxao

Visit the A Kalahari Family website for more detailed information.

Films from A Kalahari Family
Part One: A Far Country
Part Two: End Of the Road
Part Three: Real Water
Part Four: Standing Tall
Part Five: Death By Myth


“John Marshall's documentary shows the objective story of one Namibian family and testifies to the challenges and the effects of changing times on the entire nation. This not only supports the constructive political revelations preached by our first president but is a touching testimony seen from within and without our society how it changes without reflection to its past history sacrificing part of its capacity to the demands put to them by the fast changing environment making it impossible to keep up and adjust. There is no progress possible if any help from the outside does not generate capacity building from within. This documentary shows that listening to the local voices and capacity building is the only answer to sustainable development. Such help is this documentary, so that each Namibian irrespective of any rank should be obliged to see it several times and keep it for generations to come. This is part of our invisible history innocently captured to testify in vision what has so far been invisible to the naked eye.

We owe enormous gratitude to the Marshall family for this valuable contribution to the History and welfare of our nation.” — Levi Namaseb, Namibian Visiting Scholar, University of Toronto

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA, 2002
Northeastern Anthropological Association Film Festival, Burlington, Vermont, 2003
Best Environmental TV Series, FICA - International Festival of Environmental Film & Video, Brazil, 2003
Planet In Focus Film Festival, Toronto, Canada, 2003
Margaret Mead International Film Festival, NYC, 2002
Sithengi International Film Festival, Capetown, SA, 2002
African Film Festival, Seattle, 2003
Special Prize: Homage to the Films of John Marshall; Bilan du Film Ethnographique, Paris, 2003
Boston Premiere, Museum of Fine Arts, 2003
Archaeology Channel Film Festival,Oregon, 2003
University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 2003
UCLA, Los Angeles, California, 2003
DC Independent Film Festival, Washington DC, Grand Jury Award Best in World Cinema, 2003
RAI 8th Ethnographic Film Festival, Basil Wright Film Prize, England, 2003
Beeld Voor Beeld, Ethnographic Film Festival, Amsterdam, 2003
Jury Award Athens Film Festival, 2003
ICAES Film Festival, Florence, Italy, 2003
International Environmental Film Festival, Turkey, 2003
Moondance Film Festival, Seahorse Award, 2003
5th Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, 2003
17th Parnu International Film Festival, Estonia, 2003
Environmental Anthropology Prize, CineEco Festival, Portugal, 2003 Documentary & Ethnographic Film Festival of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 2003
Harvard Film Archive, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 2004
Göttingen International Film Festival, Germany, 2004
International Society of Ethnobiology International Congress, University of Kent, UK, 2004
Best Film - Jury Award, XII International Festival of Ethnographical Films, Nuoro, Italy, 2004
Zimbabwe International Film Festival, 2004
Featured Filmmaker, Astra Film Festival, Romania, 2004
Interuniversity Ethnographic Film Festival of Montreal, 2005
Environmental Film Festival of Accra, Ghana, 2005
Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, Greece, 2005
Ecocinema Festival, Athens, Greece, 2005

Related Resources
A Kalahari Family website
Robert Gordon reviews a panel discussion of A Kalahari Family at the 2003 AAA Annual Meeting (PDF)

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Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts