Rookie director Simon Stadler shocks and humbles viewers with Ghostland: The View of the Ju’Hoansi, a documentary following the Ju’Hoansi bushmen of Namibia. When a law was passed in 1990 that prevented the Ju’Hoansi from hunting animals for food, they were left only with their titles of “gatherers.” The Ju’Hoansi then resorted to performing for visiting Westerners for money by dancing, playing music and shooting arrows. Ghostland takes viewers on a journey of privilege and civilization.
Stadler takes his subjects from the Ju’Hoansi tribe to visit neighboring African tribes, as well as “civilized” areas of Namibia and Germany where they witness the lives of those with access to grocery stores, clean water, and—most sacred of all—meat. We see them nervous to use an airplane restroom and fascinated by the amenities of the more civilized world. The camera is almost always trained on the four bushmen, but occasionally focuses on Westerners (aka white people) wearing uncomfortable and confused yet intrigued expressions as they watch the tribesmen walk around in their native garb.
Ghostland poses an interesting juxtaposition between the Ju’Hoansi and the Westerners—the bushmen having so little and yet living happily and carefree; and the Westerners having luxuries unknown to the Ju’Hoansi, yet who are perceived as unhappy, tired and unfulfilled. The simplest things like soap in a gas station restroom or packaged underwear light up the faces of the tribe members, which forces Westerners like us to recognize and understand how privileged we really are.
Center for Contemporary Arts,
Uncensored; not whitewashed
Slow build; the tribe’s culture shock in Germany