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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Masai: The Rain Warriors
Masai: The Rain Warriors
Facets Video // Unrated // June 26, 2007
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted June 1, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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Though it's touted as the first film populated entirely by the Masai people of Africa, Pascal Plisson's Masai: The Rain Warriors (2004) doesn't boast much in the way of originality...other than its exotic, sun-drenched environment, of course. This coming-of-age tale puts us squarely in the center of this reclusive, little-known Kenyan culture, offering no clear main character but one decisive villain. Spoken entirely in a particular dialect of the Maa language, Masai: The Rain Warriors attempts to introduce outsiders into the culture via a fictional story.


Our story follows the Masai as they suffer through a seemingly endless drought, supposedly brought upon by the wrath of The Red God. The people believe the only remedy for this drought can be attained by slaying Vitchua, known literally as "The Lion of Lions". Prodded by village elders after the disappearance of Tipilit (the Masai war chief), a group of young men from the village are sent to bring back Vitchua's mane. This group includes their best warriors, as well as several younger men and a former soldier who's thought to be long past his prime.


Essentially, Masai: The Rain Warriors guides us along this slow-burning journey, as the young Masai search the dry landscape for signs of Vitchua. Time tests their patience, while some don't believe the lion even exists. Since their mission is clear, however, most are adamant about pressing onward. Along the way, some of these young men must prove their worth: learning when to trust their instincts or follow the lead of others, these challenges prime them for the eventual confrontation.


Still, the journey and its conclusion are fairly predictable and by-the numbers: we've seen adventures like this one many times before, even if the language and landscape have been changed. Plisson deserves credit for showing us what many haven't seen before, but only in a cultural sense. Everything else about the journey is familiar territory.


Presented on DVD by Facets, Masai: The Rain Warriors arrives in a less-than-stellar fashion. The technical presentation is decent but hardly noteworthy, while the bonus features are painfully slim. This isn't exactly blind buy material, but there's certainly enough here to warrant a closer look.


Quality Control Department



Video & Audio Quality


Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen displays, Masai: The Rain Warriors looks passable with a few reservations. The warm, earthy color palette holds up nicely and black levels are typically solid, but a notable amount of interlacing can be seen in almost every scene. From fast-moving sequences to rustling plants, this fairly distracting problem keeps the visual presentation from scoring higher.


The included Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround track (presented in the Maa language with forced English subtitles) balances the dialogue and music cues nicely. This isn't a terribly enveloping mix, but it's enough to get the job done.








Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging


Seen above, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 89-minute main feature has been divided into 10 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.



Bonus Features


Aside from the film's Theatrical Trailer (1:39, widescreen), the only film-related extra is a brief Text Biography of the Masai people. There isn't a terrible amount of detail here, but it may help new viewers understand a few story elements and overall themes. An audio commentary or interview with the director would've been extremely helpful.


Final Thoughts


It certainly looks and sounds exotic enough, but Masai: The Rain Warriors is a fairly straightforward coming-of-age tale. Sprinkled with drama, action and even a bit of mystery, those who enjoy adventures a bit off the beaten path may want to give this one a try. Unfortunately, Facets' DVD package is painfully thin, combining a decent but flawed technical presentation and only the most basic of bonus features. It's certainly not blind buy material for these reasons, but Masai: The Rain Warriors is still engaging enough for a weekend viewing. Rent It.






Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.


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