30 November 2012

Namibia: Joel Haikali Wins Big At the NFTAS

ACROSS space and time, the global filmic community celebrated Martin Scorsese’ ‘Hugo’ and Michel Hazanavicius’ “TheArtist’ by endowing them with five Academy Awards.

A few months later in our own little neck of the cinematic woods, namibia has bestowed an honour similar in quantity on Joel Haikali’s; ‘Try.’ With the film heading into the awards ceremony with a staggering ten nominations, including nods for ‘The Big Five’ of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay, ‘Try’ was undoubtedly in a fierce fight with frontrunners Tim Huebschle’s ‘Dead River’ and Oshosheni Hiveluah’s ‘100 Bucks’ which received 11 and eight nominations respectively.

What ensued was a night in which Haikali’s slick, sexy and quirky visual offering triumphed time and time again when weighed against its competitors.

And in a historical evening, the film emerged wildly victorious by winning the namibian Theatre and Film Awards for Best Director, Best Production Design, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Film by the end of the night.

“This win means that my team’s, as well as my own efforts, are recognised and I now have to work harder to make greater films,” says Haikali ever with his eye beyond the prize. “ It took me a while to register the scope of the film’s success. I have confidence in my film but I did not expect five awards. I have been nominated before without winning anything so I really tried to prepare myself

for whatever the outcome would be.” In terms of the sleek and visually dynamic aesthetic that was used to showcase the story of the many disparate though connected lives that are the centerpiece of ‘Try,’ Haikali says:

“I was aiming at challenging myself to make a dynamic, stylistic film, through which I could be critical in the most entertaining manner,” says Haikali. “I wanted to prove, like we all did this time around, that namibian filmmakers have matured to tell their stories beautifully and visually.”

The story which features an ensemble cast and which is weighted with similar star power as the cast of ‘100 Bucks’ was written by Sophie Mukenge-Kabongo who has been collaborating on it with Haikali since 2010.

Boasting believable characters with unabashed and sometimes humourous dialogue in a tale that is sensitive and sobering with a dash of that laughter one can often find in a sad situation, Kabongo manages to tie up a dramatic multi- narrative in scenes that are both familiar and funny. “For me ‘Try’ discusses

important issues and struggles that different characters representing different fractions of society go through and the humanity that connects us all,” says Kabongo of her award-winning screenplay.

“In terms of inspiration, I often have diffuse ideas that are not really scripts yet but that need conversations or meeting people to become more concrete. I always hope that the characters manage to touch the audience in some way and as a result I hope of course they make you reflect...”

In addition to winning Best Original Screenplay, ‘Try’ also won the award for Best Production Design which went to Pirouz Ghayouri.

“I was very excited about having a production design team. It is great if you can talk about the feel of the film and the colours that you want and then people help you think about even smaller details,” says Haikali.

“As for Pirouz, it was the first time we worked together and we had a great production design team with Karl Farao, Gizz Farrell and niina Turtola.”

In terms of the film’s award winning cinematography, Haikali is grateful to the efforts of Alexander Hornisch who he has worked with previously on his first feature ‘My Father’s Son.’

“Alexander and I seem to get along very well professionally and he is just the right person to help me with the cinematic feel I need. We can also fight a lot but I think that is healthy,” laughs Haikali.

“This time I wanted to challenge myself and those I work with and Alex just got what needs to be done and he also had a great camera operator with Bernd Curschmann and Ronald James as a Gaffer, they were all excited about what I was trying to do and helped me make it into reality.”

Speaking of reality, now that Haikali has descended from walking on sunshine after his monumental win, the young director is currently in new York attending the African Diaspora International Film Festival where he will be screening his award- winning film.

“I am hoping to find new distribution channels for my films and seek co- production opportunities for our upcoming projects,” says Haikali.

Upon his return, he will dive into the development of three exciting feature film projects and a short film.

And if his staggering success is any cause for confidence, the young director can feel safe in the knowledge that, when you clean up the way he just did, he no longer has to ‘Try’ ... because clearly he can.

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