Big Picture Big Sound

Ghostland Review

By David Kempler

Smiling Faces

There have been countless stories and films where life among the tribes of Africa has been examined or studied. "Ghostland: The View of the Ju'hoansi", a documentary by German director Simon Stadler, shows us a unique take on this subject.

Instead of looking at the tribe in their native land of Namibia, the director transports a group of them out of their environment and to Western civilization. It is mesmerizing, primarily because of how much we come to care for the group and how odd our way of life must look through these eyes.

Known as the Bushmen of Namibia, their lives have been greatly altered since 1990, when the government outlawed hunting by the tribe. This took away their primary means of survival and their only choice was to become sellers of handmade goods to tourists. The interactions are always warm in both directions, with everyone smiling through the encounters and transactions.


"Ghostland" takes off when a German foundation invites four of the tribesmen to come for a visit to Frankfurt, Germany. Everything that follows is fun to watch as we experience our world through their eyes. It's not an entirely flattering picture they draw with their observations. They are overwhelmed by the loud noise that our society incessantly produces and have a few other negative feelings about it. However, they smile throughout, and it's their utter lack of pretentiousness that defines them.

The only drawback is that there is no real tension or even conflict here. While it's enormous fun to watch them smile from one new experience to the next, it sometimes made me wish that it all didn't come so easily to the visitors, but then I realized that's probably not a fair criticism. There is no heavy message here, but it's refreshing to sometimes just sit back and smile for 85 minutes.

What did you think?

Movie title Ghostland
Release year 2016
MPAA Rating NR
Our rating
Summary Instead of watching and studying a tribe in Africa, this documentary takes four members of said tribe to Germany to watch and study their natives. It's a smile-fest.
View all articles by David Kempler
More in Movies
Big News
Newsletter Sign-up
Connect with Us