‘Animals Are Beautiful People’ is a humorous 1974 Golden Globe Award-winning documentary, directed and written by Jamie Uys, about the wildlife of various arid desert environments in Southern Africa. Filmed in the Namib Desert, the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, a soft-spoken narrator weaves whimsical tales over superb footage of animals and birds behaving oddly. Some scenes portray elephants, ostriches, warthogs and monkeys becoming intoxicated from eating fermented fruit of the marula tree. Their antics are hilarious until you start to question the authenticity of such documentaries.
It makes for a thoroughly entertaining movie, but the science suggests the image of a drunken elephant sitting under a marula tree is the stuff of legend and myth. As for Uys’s footage, the likelihood is that the filmmakers had soaked the elephants’ food with alcohol (or had tranquilized the animals) and filmed the consequences. If this were ever proven to be true, it would be just another scandalous example of the sensationalism and fabrication that has persistently undermined the wildlife film-making industry.
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