Movie Review: Adventures in Zambezia

Movie Review: Adventures in Zambezia

Young falcon Kai explores independence in Zambezia

By Mark HadleyWednesday 10 Apr 2013MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes


Rating: G
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: April 11, 2013 

Adventures In Zambezia is an unusual offering for families these holidays – a fringe production house with a less complicated animation style but a more time-honored take-home message.

It’s a measure of how spoilt we’ve become thanks to the efforts of big-budget production houses like Dreamworks, Walt Disney and Pixar that it’s hard to look at anything less polished. The Croods and Escape From Planet Earth are sustained by such a high degree of computer-generated imagery that smaller production houses look crude by comparison. That was at least my first impression as I previewed Adventures In Zambezia. The textures are a little less developed, the backgrounds a bit flatter, the characters a tad more two-dimensional. But this film is the creation of Triggerfish Animations, a South African production house that is naturally punching far above its own weight internationally. And as the story got going I reminded myself that the real question for kids is can they lose themselves in this birdbrain tale?

Zambezia has done a great job recruiting stars for its storyline – Leonard Nimoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum, Richard E. Grant. But Triggerfish’s best move is presenting an authentically African setting, crammed with the sorts of creatures kids won’t have seen on the side of a McDonalds Happy Meal. Kai is a young Peregrine falcon who lives with his father in the middle of Kitango, a desolate land-locked valley. He begins to dream of flying further than his protective father Tendai permits. When a Saddle-billed Stork crash lands into his eerie on her way to the fabled bird city of Zambezia, Kai sees a chance to expand his world dramatically. He sets off with the dream of joining the Hurricanes, an elite group of raptors who protect the more vulnerable birds of this feathered metropolis. Kai’s incredible diving skills deliver him the success he craves, but his inability to work as part of a group soon sees him ejected by Hurricane’s commander:

“Since you clearly have no concept of what a team is, you cannot be part of ours!”

Of course the opportunity soon arrives for Kai to demonstrate his concern for the larger group. An evil Legavaan – imagine a giant, nasty looking lizard – has plans of invading Zambezia for its vast supply of eggs, and has enlisted a flock of filthy Marabous to assist him. If Kai is able to put aside his need to ‘fly solo’ he’ll stand a chance of defeating the intruders – if not, the bird city will be lost.

Adventures In Zambezia is a refreshing change from the usual individual-oriented storylines that currently vie for kids’ attention. Recently Paranorman told the story of a psychically gifted child who’s greatest need was acceptance – coming hard on the heels of Frankenweenie, Hotel Transylvannia, Brave and Wreck It Ralph, all of whom followed a similar pattern. By comparison Kai has to learn the more Christian-centric moral that, “… we cannot get along without the parts of the body that seem to be the weakest.”   We have to make allowances and even change. It was something the ‘superior’ believers had to learn in the church at Corinth in the first century AD, and its wisdom that holds true today. In a world of crazily unusual birds, kids learn that God has a purpose for everything He creates. As the wise old African Fish Eagle, Nimoy observes for the benefit of their former enemies:

Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by

“Zambezia is more than a place, it’s an idea. It’s a place for everyone – even Marabous. If they’re willing to help there’s a place for them too.”

Now, Zambezia isn’t going to go as far as a message of Gospel community but it’s encouraging to see at least one international release that holds there can be a home for everyone, based on their shared belief and not on their tail-feathers or talents.