Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



Try these titles on for size: The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf. Most people I know who have seen them would put them high on their list of favorite movies of their type. Now try two more: Fly Away Home, Wind. I think most people have never seen them, and it’s their loss, as they are as good as the first two. They are all beautifully photographed, difficult to make, and deal with nature at her best and worst. And all were directed by Carroll Ballard, who I worked with briefly in the early ’80s. (Nothing came of it, I’m sorry to say.) He doesn’t work that often, partly because the studio publicity hacks don’t know how to market his films, even though people love them. Again, it’s their loss. Duma is maybe a cut below those masterpieces, but Ballard has set the mark so high that if he misses a little bit it’s still a worthwhile movie. It tells the based-on-fact story of a boy who adopts an orphaned cheetah cub in South Africa, raises it, and is forced to return it to the wild. Yeah, I know, Born Free for sprinters, and I guess that’s the chief problem. True or not, the story is pretty predictable. But everything else is magnificent. Working with animals in film is hard. It takes infinite patience to get the shot the script calls for. But the result is worth it. Ballard’s theme and possibly his obsession is wild places and wild things. A magnificent horse is tamed. A man learns to run with the wolves. A young girl flies with migrating geese. People learn to ride with the untamable wind. And a boy treks across some of the bleakest land you’ll ever see to free the fastest land animal in the world. You could do a lot worse.