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The White Maasai Warrior

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The White Maasai Warrior Movie Poster Image
Informative docu has some nature violence.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 83 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Coexisting with the earth and nature. Learning to understand and appreciate a culture and people very different from our own. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Maasai warriors are shown to prefer play over battle, don't eat wild animals, don't poach, and help to stop poaching in the Serengeti. 

Violence

Some nature violence. Lion shown killing a cow. Maasai kill a sheep then drink blood from its slit throat; sheep's cadaver graphically shown. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A Maasai medicine man says that he wants a beer. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The White Maasai Warrior is a 2019 documentary in which a white man, for the first time, is given the chance to learn to become a Maasai warrior. There are some graphic moments involving killed animals and nature violence that could be difficult for young kids, animal lovers, and the squeamish. The Maasai kill a sheep and then drink the blood from its slit throat; the sheep cadaver is shown being taken apart. A lion attacks and kills a cow. Aside from this, the documentary is an introduction to the Maasai culture, challenging popularly-held beliefs about one of the last nearly isolated tribes in the world. It should inspire discussion among families about the differences between cultures, and what commonalities humanity shares, no matter what their background might be. 

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What's the story?

In THE WHITE MAASAI WARRIOR, documentary filmmaker Benjamin Eicher has been given an extraordinary opportunity: He has been invited by the Maasai warriors to live as they do and to train to become a warrior, the first time a white man has ever been asked. With a film crew, Eicher travels to the northern part of the Serengeti and begins to immerse himself in the Maasai way of life. He dresses as they do, learns their traditions and beliefs, and learns to hunt and play like a Maasai. He learns some surprising facts about the Maasai, one of the last somewhat-isolated tribes on the planet. They prefer play over battle, don't hunt wild animals, and keep herds of animals. They also never poach, and are shown cooperating with forest rangers when they happen upon a poacher's trap. They also steal a goat from a nearby village during a desperate time, a debt to be paid back shortly after. Along the way, Eicher finds a deeper appreciation and love for the Maasai warriors, and learns his limitations in truly becoming one of them. 

Is it any good?

It almost goes without saying that, by its very premise, this an interesting documentary. The first white man being invited to join the Maasai warriors and to live as they do -- of course this is going to be inherently worthwhile. It's perhaps just as much of an overview of the Maasai culture as anything else. We learn how they prefer play over battle, how they don't eat wild animals, how they perceive time. There are also some humorous moments -- a medicine man expected to say something mystical instead says that he wants a beer. Benjamin Eicher, the documentarian who has been invited to join the Maasai, faces the limits of his bravery in the wild and opts to ride in the jeep in one scene when faced with lurking danger in the form of fast carnivorous predators lurking in the trees. 

If there's any overarching problem with The White Maasai Warrior, it's that this overview tends to supersede deeper introspection. One of the reasons the Maasai invite Eicher to join them is so that the world can see how they live, as they fear that their isolated way of life is starting to vanish. We get this overview in abundance, but relatively little about what it means to both the "White Maasai Warrior" and the world at large. There’s a lingering sense that the documentary needs more than a change from a suit and tie to warrior's garb and the drinking of sheep's blood. It's interesting on its own merits, but there's a lingering sense that there should be more than what's presented. 

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about documentaries. How does The White Maasai Warrior compare to other documentaries you've seen?

  • How did the movie challenge assumptions people may have about the Maasai? 

  • How did the movie explore issues such as poaching? How could you learn more?

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