DER Documentary

Bitter Melons

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From the !Kung series
by John Marshall
color, 30 min, 1971

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This film, shot in 1955, focuses on a small band of /Gwi San living in the arid landscape of the central Kalahari Desert in present-day Botswana. The hardships of their everyday survival are woven into the songs of a blind musician, Ukxone, who composes music on a hunting bow. His songs evoke the /Gwi landscape and its diverse wildlife; they depict the routine of their daily lives: gathering food, collecting water, hunting for animals, and sharing as a community. "Bitter Melons," his favorite song, is about a woman who learned from her Bantu neighbors to plant melon seeds despite the agriculturalists protesting that wild melons taste bitter. Song, dance, landscape, and life are not so separated for the /Gwi San; their margins are fluid.

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
CINE Golden Eagle
American Film Festival Blue Ribbon
Flaherty Award
Festival dei Popoli
Salerno International Festival of Small-Sized Films
Athens International Film Festival
Philadelphia International Festival of Short Films

Other films in the series:
An Argument about Marriage
Baobab Play
Children Throw Toy Assegais
A Curing Ceremony
Debe's Tantrum
First Film
A Group of Women
The Hunters
A Joking Relationship
A Kalahari Family
!Kung Bushmen Hunting Equipment
The !Kung San: Traditional Life
The !Kung San: Resettlement
Lion Game
The Meat Fight
N!owa T'ama: The Melon Tossing Game
Men Bathing
N!ai, The Story of a !Kung Woman
N/um Tchai: the Ceremonial Dance of the !Kung Bushmen
Playing with Scorpions
Pull Ourselves Up or Die Out
A Rite of Passage
To Hold Our Own Ground: A Field Report
Tug-Of-War, Bushmen
The Wasp Nest

Related Resources
Study Guide

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