The Cave [2015 Kabelo Maaka Short Film] Review

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Genre: Adventure

Year Released: 2015
Distributor: Cabblow Studios

Origin: South Africa

Running Time: 9 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Deliverance, Yeelen, Frozen, Zarafa, David and Goliath, The Secret of Kells


-The Cave is streaming on YouTube.

Fun Facts:

-The Cave is the graduation project of Kabbelo Maaka.

-Language Bonus: Mokgethwa is Sotho for “Chosen Person” while Nthabiseng means “Make me Happy” in that same language.

This is the second time involving reviewing the work of South African animator Kabelo Maaka. As you all may remember, I checked out the cut paper animated short Deliverance not too long ago. I thought it was a decent work, but I thought it was too preachy for me. I wanted to see her other works on her YouTube page. There were multiple art and behind the scenes videos, but I didn’t see as many short films. I did find one, so I thought I would give it the Iridium Eye treatment.

Will this graduation thesis stand the test of my blog?

The Cave takes place a long time ago in a South African village. There were two sisters who lived in said village who are Nthabiseng who is the girly one while her sister Mokgethwa is more tomboyish and also acts as a huntress of sorts. Their village is under threat of invasion from a tribe filled with giants and the two of them go on a journey with their rhino steed. However, both of them bicker early on and get separated. When they do go back together the forest traps them into a cavernous background. How will Nthabiseng and Mokgethwa fare on this journey?

This would be a story that I could see as a major animated film, actually. While the story itself is very straightforward, I do like how there’s a depiction of presumably precolonial South Africa (or would it be Azania in that regard?) that is respectful. Of course having a director of that nationality certainly helps. I had a realization that this was also the first time I’ve seen an animated project made by an African that has both Black people AND animals (okay, just a rhino) in the same space. WHAAAAAT?! Someone tell Disney and Dreamworks that someone had the decency to do this instead of just succumbing to G-rated White Supremacy! I could name names of the movies from those companies, but you already know what they are and there’s no need for me to beat a dead horse in this particular manner. I did think the interplay between the sisters who have a clear contrast in personalities and designs. They do bicker and argue, but they do come together in a believable way and showed that they naturally had a healthy relationship with each other. That’s something I appreciated. The African-based music with the percussion and isicathamiya chants were a nice touch for The Cave, too.

The Cave does falter in different ways. The ending becomes quite overt with the David and Goliath imagery. I get that they had to face some giants, but the imagery and battle was about as subtle as a shotgun in how it was portrayed. Even a small child would pick up on that parallel. While not as preachy as Deliverance, the overt Christian references also appear in the ending with some of the dialogue. I think the biggest problem with The Cave was the lack of real animation for most of the short film. It felt like a nicely made animatic more than a full-on animated film. It’s not as bad as some of those storybook movies I remember watching as a kid that would just use the illustrations of the books while just panning the images around, there should’ve been way more movement in everything and not just the transitions.

This short film had lots of potential, but I felt that it didn’t live up to most of it despite the good things shown. The representation of precolonial Africa with the people who would’ve lived there in addition to the wildlife was an element of fridge brilliance. I liked how the characters are actually seen as competent in the story. I do wish the animation quality matched those elements. I heard that Kabelo Maaka wanted to update this short, but for this particular version, I could say it’s slightly above average.

Adjustable Rating System:

Add 1 point if you like stories that focus on sisters.
Add 1 point if you like African based stories where the people are treated with respect.
Subtract 1-3 points if you want high-quality animation.

-Great portrayal of precolonial Africa
-Competent main characters
-Good soundtrack


-Overt Christian themes
-Looks more like an animatic than an animated feature
-Obvious parallels with David and Goliath that could’ve been handled better

Final Score: 6/10 points

Content Warning: The Cave is a pretty tame short. The worse thing is that there’s violence, but that would barely be considered TV-Y7 if it aired on TV. I think there are Disney animated films way more offensive than this.

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. The Cave is property of Kabelo Maaka. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Kabelo Maaka.

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