The Hunters

John Marshall
1 hour and 12 minutes


The Northern Kalahari desert is a very dry place. There is not much rain even in the rainy season from January to March.The people here are nomads by necessity since the search for water determines their lives. Even the trees have thorns in the Northern Kalahari. The sexes are very much separate. The women gather roots, berries and nuts for their families. The men hunt. It is their work and passion. The boys start at an early age. They teach themselves through experience.After years of practicing the bow and arrow they are ready to shoot their first animal. The film tells how one day four Kalahari Bushmen leave for the hunt determined not to come back until they have slain some animal. The first few days are no success. Hyenas and vultures scare the game away. Finally one of the men shoots a poison arrow into the loin of a giraffe. The giraffe runs frightened away from its flock. The hunters wait and let the poison take effect. The giraffe returns and disappears again. On the fifth day of the hunt the hunters are still eating berries, but now they are in luck.The poison has made the giraffe drowsy and now it suddenly appears in a glen. The hunters rush forward with their spears ready, and succeed in bringing it down. The game is divided at once. The meat is cut into pieces and dried. When they get home the meat is shared according to precise rules. The families of the four hunters first get to taste the meat. Now there is meat for everyone in nine days. The hunters can sit down by the fire, lit their pipes and tell their story.The film is part of John Marshall's comprehensive !Kung san series about the hunting and gathering !Kung people, filmed in Namibia and Botswana over a period of almost 30 years, from 1951 onwards. Other films in the series include "Argument About a Marriage", "Bitter Melons", "Rite of Passage", "The Meat Fight", "The Wasp Nest" and "N!ai, the Story of a !Kung Woman".

John Marshall
Suggested readings: 
Kalahari hunter-gatherers : studies of the !Kung San and their neighbors / edited by Richard B. Lee and Irven DeVore. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1976. XIX, 408 s. : ill.
Other keywords: 
Indigenous people