“Duma” is basically the sort of film children can watch without damaging messages, and I’m all for that. These days it’s impossible to find watchable children’s films, but “Duma” treats its audience with consideration presenting heroes that are relatable, and an animal character that’s never goofy. “Duma” is an epic story about a father and son whom discover a baby Cheetah on the side of the road one night in their homeland. They take the baby back home with them and decide to raise it until its old enough to go on its own. But when young Xan’s father dies (Campbell Scott), Xan is forced to move back to the city with his mother along with Duma who can not adapt to his urban settings.
After an incident at school, Xan’s mom wants to sell Duma to a wildlife reserve, but Xan is intent on bringing Duma back to its home land as he’d planned with his father, and so he sets out on his own. What’s most likable about “Duma” is that it teaches children about love, and loss, and inevitable separation while journeying with Xan who ventures across the desert, and jungle to get Duma where it belongs. As they venture in to the wild further, they separate even more, and Duma begins to get in touch with his own true nature. But “Duma” never loses its spirit and becomes rather menacing as Xan and Duma (along with a Bush Baby) find themselves threatened by crocodiles, lions, wild boars, and poachers. Ballard’s direction remains gorgeous even in the bleak settings of the jungles where our two heroes find themselves in, and though there’s always the chance for death or injury, Ballard never shies away from the concept, nor does she ever gauge the audiences emotions.
Hope Davis gives a good performance as Xan’s mother who goes across country looking for him, while Scott’s brief performance is very effective. Scott in only a combine screen time of forty-five minutes leaves a lasting mark on the story. Eamonn Walker gives a great performance as Ripkuna, a traveler who comes across Duma and Xan and ventures out with them attempting to help Xan survive. “Duma” becomes much more bittersweet and tragic toward the climax as we witness a coming of age for both characters with a touching climax that made the time spent worth it. “Duma” is a pure children’s film with an exciting story, genuine characters, and deep messages about life, love, and loss. And we can’t forget the power cast of Eammon Walker, Campbell Scott, and Hope Davis.