U is for Jamie Uys

This is my contribution to Round Twelve of ABC Wednesday and again I am focusing on people, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten.
Jamie Uys

There is a popular notion that elephants and other creatures get themselves drunk by eating the fermented fruit of the marula tree, but it is a complete myth created by the South African filmmaker, Jamie Uys.

Uys was born in Boksburg, SA, in 1921 and began his career as a mathematics teacher in his hometown. Then he married Hettie, a fellow maths teacher, and they took to farming and opened trading posts on the Palala River.

He made his debut as a film director in 1951 with the Afrikaans-language film Daar Doer in die Bosveld (Far Away in the Bushveld) and went on to make 24 films, many of them comedies.

The Gods Must Be CrazyThe best known of Uys’ films is The Gods Must Be Crazy about a Coca-Cola bottle thrown from an aeroplane that lands in the Kalahari Desert and is found by a member of the San tribe. This modern anachronism causes trouble for the tribe and has to be returned to the gods from where it came.

Another well-known Uys film was Funny People from 1977, a Candid Camera-style production which put unsuspecting people in embarrassing situations. These included a talking postbox, with the voice of a man claiming to be trapped inside, who asks passersby for help.

Despite his success, Uys lived quite a simple life when away from his home in Johannesburg with a house at Paradise Beach on the Eastern Cape where he pursued his interest in botany and model aeroplanes.

Jamie UysUys died of a heart attack in 1994 at the age of 74, but I began by mentioning the myth he created that bush animals enjoy getting drunk.

This stems from his 1974 film Animals Are Beautiful People which purports to show elephants, baboons, warthogs and giraffes intoxicated after eating fermented fruit.

This was almost certainly staged for the camera. Many animals do indeed like to eat the fruit of the marula and elephants will shake the tress so that it falls, but it never stays on the ground long enough to ferment, even if elephants liked to eat rotten fruit, which they don’t.

A study by the University of Bristol calculated that even if that were the case, each elephant would have to eat 1,500 marula fruit at one go to get the slightest bit tipsy.

But the myth suited Uys the filmmaker and below is the clip from Animals Are Beautiful People where it all began.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

5 comments… Add yours
  • Roger Green 5th June 2013

    I saw The Gods Must Be Crazy, in the theater, when it was first released.

  • bettyl 5th June 2013

    Great post! A lot of work went into it, obviously. Thanks for the cool info.

  • Leslie 5th June 2013

    It’s always a unique trip over here each week to learn of someone who has lived an unusual life.

    abcw team

  • Richie 5th June 2013

    Animals are Beautiful People is a great movie. My granddaughters love it.
    An Arkies Musings

  • Jumbo Pudding 5th June 2013

    I know for a fact that elephants do not get themselves drunk from the fermented fruit of the marula tree because when I was in South Africa I got pissed on “Castle” beer with some bull elephants in a Durban pub. The bar stools had been specially re-inforced to accommodate their large bottoms.


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