Mental Illness Is Not Funny. But Africans Are.
1991, Hong Kong
My, this is interesting. It's amazing the kind of stuff you find if you live near a good video store. Well, 'good' is a relative term. Some might define 'good' as the type of video store that guarantees that Vin Diesel's The Pacifier will always be in, should you find yourself in a situation when you need to creep your kids out of their minds, but I define it as the type of place where a friendly smile and a few well placed hints will get you a bootlegged video of a 15 year old Asian girl getting mounted by a black Lab. And those are the kinds of rental places you'll find films like Crazy Safari.
This particular gem of Hong Kong cinema is actually a sequel to the popular The Gods Must Be Crazy franchise, a series that needed another entry like I need another hate speech conviction. I know, I know, it's a heart-warming story about a clash of cultures, as a charmingly primitive African tribesman encounters a bustling post-colonial city, where innocence meets commerce, pollution, and genocidal government officials driving Mercedes S600Ls, but when I'm of the opinion that both cultures should be eradicated by drought and disease to clear valuable land for McDonald's to raise cattle, I tend not to get particularly enthralled. In the first Gods Must Be Crazy, a young (or possibly terribly old, when you're that shrunken and sun-weathered, it's hard to tell) hunter is startled when he's hit on the head by a Coke bottle, which he takes as a sign of the Gods. It's supposed to be comical, but it's just insulting. He's so monstrously uneducated he mistakes product placement for divine intervention. Isn't that cute? Plus he doesn't even bother to speak English, preferring instead to communicate in the proverbial clicks and whistles that most people assume is just part of a bad joke you overhear bikers tell in bars with tinted windows. All in all, I was unimpressed, but I'll chalk that up to a cultural insensitivity on my part akin to moral Novocain and move on.
Crazy Safari, however, draws my ire at both the patronizing portrayal of the tribesman and the bafflingly insane portrayal of Asian culture, something that regular readers will recognize as a familiar theme on these pages. The film starts off as the first in the series did, with the tribesman, N!Xau, blissfully unaware of anything more complicated that a hollowed out gourd and a sharp rock. Then, he's hit on the head by a Chinese hopping vampire falling out of a plane carrying Steven Chow and the guy from Mr. Vampire. Naturally, he uses the vampire to battle a rampaging Zulu horde led by white South African diamond miners. Then comes the part when N!Xau gets possessed by a photo of Bruce Lee and starts attacking stock footage from The Chinese Connection. At this point, my brain is officially sparking with the myriad possible directions this review can take. Do I rely on the old standard, pointing out that watching any non-Kurosawa movie made east of the Gobi desert feels kind of like running around in a video arcade on acid? Do I start trying to explain the complex mythology behind Chinese ghost stories and why they're about as frightening as an episode of Zoom? Do I write about the social and political effects of conflict diamond mining in post-colonial African society? Nah, I think I'll just make fun of the tribesmen some more, since they probably can't read this anyway. Although, what with my country's draconian hate speech laws, maybe I better leave it be for now.