I called Denis Grace, a friend of mine who runs a tour company called Africa With Grace, in January 2017. I had this idea I wanted to ask him about. Did he know of any tribes in Africa, preferably The Bushmen, who were still living a traditional hunter gatherer lifestyle? And would it be possible to go and stay with these people, and to document the journey on film?

It was a big ask, if you’ve ever been to Africa you’ll know that any ‘official process’ is a long, patient, demanding task not for the faint hearted. Denis was enthusiastic, he’s always enthusiastic when it comes to Africa.

“Give me a week and I’ll get back to you.”

Getting the cover shot.
Covershot
Denis & Kane
Denis & Kane

I waited a week, enjoying some time off before I planned to move to Sydney on Australia’s East Coast. He called me in the midst of this move, some ten days later.

“Let’s do it.”

“Can we?”

“Probably. Here’s what I need…”

What followed was months of organisation, film commission forms, fees, flights, car rentals, long, slow emails over longer and slower internet connections and more. But we finally organised it. I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t ready. I had no money, but we were making The Gut Movie and that was that.

I arrived in Namibia, disheveled and tired, but a local man held a sign which said Kal Brook and I presumed that was me, so we hopped in a van together and drove 45 minutes to a nearby town where Denis was waiting with a rental truck. This truck would be home for the next two days of travel into the Namibian wilderness. We would be driving out to the top corner of the country to meet with The San, an ancient hunter gatherer tribe who have lived in Southern Africa for 60,000 years.

We picked up Kane, my cinematographer, at the airport and quickly started the long, arduous journey into the rolling majestic dunes of Namibia.

Roasting the harvest with the ladies
Our San guide Kxao

Our time with The San was incredible. We were greeted as wholeheartedly as a returning family. They took us in and showed us how they lived. And of course, they allowed us to harvest their poo for scientific analysis. The San are one of the most happy and relaxed groups of people I have ever met, and their joy in the simplicities of life in the wilderness was a pleasure to experience.

We hunted, we foraged, we played games and relaxed. This was the way of The San people. We found tracks for death adder, hyena surrounded our camp at night and sniffed at our tents, and lions roamed not too far away, enjoying their own hunting on the outskirts of the village. This was the true African wilderness, and we were here filming a movie about gut bacteria. The contradiction was not lost on me or the crew, but we embedded ourselves in the experience with all the gusto necessary to capture the life of The San tribe.

As we returned to Australia we knew we had something special. We had banked hours and hours of incredible footage, beautiful interactions and hilarious scientific research which involved some serious poo harvesting.

When we arrived at the Smart DNA lab in Melbourne, Dr. Margie and Simone seemed like they were sitting on a gold mine. They knew the results were astonishing and positive, and they couldn’t wait to share it with us for the film. They wanted to tell me straight away but I insisted we capture the moment on camera. I didn’t want to know if the results were good or bad until we started rolling.

And what were they? Well, I guess you’ll just have to watch the film to find out 🙂