The San tribe are one of the oldest populations on earth. Their distinctive dialect, ‘jul’Hoansi’, is spoken by a people whose numbers are decreasing at a time when globalisation encroaches on age old traditions. Filmmaker Jacob John Harmer’s latest film, from producer Kay Czuba, delves deeply into the world of the San—spanning the entire lifetime of a tribesman from youth to old age. In a lyrical exploration of life, death, ancestors, and the San spirit world, Harmer’s project focuses on a village elder’s recollections of a life with the San and the warp and weft of their way of life. Chris Obi, of American Gods and Star Trek, narratives this powerfully evocative study of a way of life vastly different, and yet tellingly similar, to those in the West.
“To bring our film to life we made contact with the tribe using a local conservation program,” explains Harmer. “We spent eleven days camping near the tribe and their village, and were allowed access to a rare healing ceremony, conducted for a tribal elder—observing their tracking and stalking stills. We watched as they prepared poison, mixed in animal vertebrae, and prepared the heads of poison-tipped arrows.
“Throughout our time we were reminded not to venture into the bush alone. The nightly calls of wild dogs outside our camp, leopard footprints in the sand and an unwelcome visit from a black mamba kept us in check. This was reinforced when in an interview with a respected hunter our fixer chillingly translated; “If a leopard takes you we cannot do anything, they will break your neck, then take you into the depths of the savannah and hang you up a tree…”