Set in Botswana, it follows the story of Xi, a San of the Kalahari Desert (played by Namibian San farmer Nǃxau ǂToma) whose tribe has no knowledge of the world beyond, Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers), a biologist who analyzes manure samples for his PhD dissertation, and Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo), a newly hired village school teacher.
Xi and his San tribe of Ju'/Hoansi bushmen are living happily in the Kalahari Desert. One day, a glass Coca-Cola bottle is thrown out of an airplane and falls to Earth unbroken. Initially, Xi's people suppose this strange artifact is another "present" from the gods and find many uses for it. But unlike anything that they have had before, there is only one glass bottle to share. Because of the conflict it causes, Xi consults with elders and agrees to make a pilgrimage to the edge of the world and dispose of the supposedly cursed thing.
Along the way, he encounters a diverse assortment of people, such as: biologist Andrew Steyn, who is studying the local animals; Kate Thompson, the newly hired village school teacher; a band of guerrillas led by Sam Boga, who are being pursued by government troops after an unsuccessful attack; a safari tour guide named Jack Hind; and Steyn's assistant and mechanic, M'pudi.
When Xi, hungry, happens upon a corral, he shoots a goat with a tranquilizer arrow, but is caught and jailed. M'pudi, who once lived with the San and still speaks Xi's dialect, concludes that Xi will die if kept incarcerated. He and Steyn apply to employ Xi as a tracker for the remainder of his sentence in lieu of prison. Meanwhile, the guerrillas invade Kate's school and take her and the students as human shields for their escape to the neighboring country.
Steyn, M'pudi, and Xi soon discover their field work (observing the local wildlife) is on the terrorists' chosen path. They manage to immobilize the guerrillas as they are passing by and save Kate and the children. However, Jack Hind takes away Kate, and Steyn is left at the same place again. With Xi's term over, Steyn pays his wages and sending him on his way. When Steyn tells Kate about his problem, Kate is impressed and they begin his relationship.
Xi eventually arrives at God's Window, the top of a cliff with a solid layer of low-lying clouds obscuring the landscape below. Convinced that he has reached the edge of the world, he throws the bottle off the cliff, and returns to his tribe.N!xau as Xi
Marius Weyers as Andrew Steyn
Sandra Prinsloo as Kate Thompson
Michael Thys as M'Pudi (voiced by Pip Freedman)
Louw Verwey as Sam Boga
The Gods Must Be Crazy was released in South Africa in 1980 by Ster Kinekor Pictures; it became a box-office record breaker in that country. For the film's overseas release, the original Afrikaans dialogue was dubbed into English, and voiceover work was provided for !Kung and Tswana lines. At the time, it broke all box office records in Japan and it broke all box office records for a foreign film in the United States.
In mid-November 1986, The Gods Must Be Crazy was released on videocassette in the U.S. by CBS/Fox through their Playhouse Video label.
Based on 19 reviews, The Gods Must Be Crazy has carried a 95% "Fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes. Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, and said in his conclusion: "It might be easy to make a farce about screwball happenings in the desert, but it's a lot harder to create a funny interaction between nature and human nature. This movie's a nice little treasure".
Despite the film's having grossed over $100 million worldwide, Nǃxau reportedly earned less than $2,000 for his starring role. Before his death, Uys supplemented this with an additional $20,000 as well as a monthly stipend.The Gods Must Be Crazy II (1989)