14 December 2012

Namibia: Flash Back On Local Film

With six of our local filmmakers just back from 12 days in New York where they presented their short films at ‘A Night in Namibia’ as part of the African Diaspora international Film Festival, i’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and say it’s been a pretty good year for film.

Beginning with the launch of seven Namibia Film Commission (NFC) short films, which gained momentum with Namibia Film Week in both July and November, and culminating in the Namibian theatre and Film Awards three weeks ago, the film folk have changed their own game and worked tirelessly to ensure that the phrase “i’m a filmmaker” is greeted with applause rather than amusement replete with best wishes for a frustrating future.

At the helm of this year’s renaissance were members of the Filmmakers Association of Namibia (FAN) namely Cecil Moller, Senga Brockerhoff, tim huebschle, Joel haikali, Oshosheni hiveluah and Pedro Mendoza.

With each bringing their technical and creative strengths to a mammoth milestone that included Moller slavishly executive producing all seven films, Brockerhoff and Mendoza coordinating Namibia Film Week, huebschle acting as Film Week’s technical and public relations coordinator and haikali proposing, planning, and securing funding for the Namibia Film Week festivals, the filmmakers took their fate into their own hands and shone an exciting light on the potential of local cinema.

Funding this potential was the NFC whose 2011/2012 Short Film Project chose and paid for the best screenplays to be produced by the country’s top talent. Currently in its second year of existence after funding three short films in 2010, the NFC Short Film Project took phenomenal leaps in building the industry which seriously began to percolate in 2010.

in terms of production, the number of short films funded in 2010 increased from three to seven and the budgets for each film increased from N$170 000 to N$300 000 for five of the seven with N$150 000 being allocated to two films produced by first time screenwriters and directors.

the result was the much lauded cache of NFC films that included huebschle’s stirring historical drama ‘Dead River’, haikali’s slickly cinematic ‘try’, Errol Geingob’s melodramatic ‘All She Ever Wanted,’ hiveluah’s crowd favourite ‘100 Bucks’, Krischka Stoffels ‘tjiraa’ for the culture curious, Vickson hangula’s paranormal ‘Place of Peace’ and Ernst Steynberg’s druggie drama ‘Reflections’. the NFC also funded six of the

seven filmmakers trips to New York where huebschle collected indie filmmaker Perivi John Katjavivi’s Silicon Valley African Film Festival special recognition award for his edgy ‘My Beautiful Nightmare’ (2012) as well as his own for ‘Looking For iilonga’ (2011)

Katjavivi’s international recognition was especially promising as ‘My Beautiful Nightmare’ was shot with zero budget over two winter nights starring first time actress Sheena Schwartz who went on to win Best Actress at this year’s Namibian theatre and Film Awards, under his direction.

After this A+ for the indies, Katjavivi was also a contender for Best Actor and won an award as part of the ensemble of ‘100 Bucks’, this coupled with his independent spirit, experimental film aesthetic and ability to make magic on a shoe string puts him at the top of my list for 2013 actor- director to watch.

From the experimental to the internationally acclaimed, this year tim huebschle was the international man of festival features.

With his double dramas ‘Looking for iilonga’ and ‘Dead River’ included in festivals in Berlin, New York, Slovenia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cameroon, Amsterdam and Swaziland and with huebschle winning Best Short Film at South Africa’s Amasiko heritage Festival for the second time in a row, there is no doubt that huebschle is well on his way to being the country’s hottest export.

huebschle also held the honour of being nominated for 18 NtFAs, having the legendary Alessandro Alessandroni compose ‘Dead River’s’ score with the film going on to win Best Sound Design by David Benade, Best Editing by haiko Boldt and Best Male Actor for Jens Schneider. the huebschle stable was also proud to take home Best Newcomer for comedian turned actor, Onesmus Upindi in ‘Looking for iilonga’.

Also raking in local awards was Joel haikali whose sleek, sexy and sensationally scripted ‘try’ that won an astonishing five awards at the NtFAs. his camp won the coveted awards of Best Director, Best Film, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design and Best Screenplay.

Oshosheni hiveluah’s ‘100 Bucks’ took home the prize for Audience Choice and the flawless and unfathomably fancy filmic event was organised by NtN’s public relations officer, Enid Johr who managed everything from awards to invitations. Johr was assisted by hiveluah, Aino Moongo and téliska Pesenti on behalf of FAN as well as Senga Brockerhoff who has just been appointed as the new FAN chair-person.

Brockerhoff will be making 2013 magic with the new FAN board which includes Marinda Stein, Gwen Swart, Obed Emvula, tim huebschle and Virginia Witts who will be acting as public relations officer, marketing manager, liaison officer, treasurer and secretary respectively.

in terms of documentary, Andrew Botelle and Robert Scott’s ‘Born in Etosha’ took home top honours in the genre with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to fellow documentarians Jen and Des Bartlett. And this year’s sole feature film, Richard Pakleppa’s absorbing ‘taste of Rain’, opened the festival in the run-up to NtFAs.

the film awards were judged by the film society’s Madryn Cosburn, Glynis Beukes-Kapa, Bobby hasheela, Martha Mukaiwa and South Africa’s Steven Markovitz. the event also garnered exciting guest appearances and performances by ‘Scandal’s’ Sello Maake Ka-Ncube and ‘the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’s’ (1966) Alessandro Alessandroni.

international investment also reached Swakopmund’s shores in the filming of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ which saw the likes of actress Lara-Lyn Ahrens and production designer Lila Swanepoel working behind the scenes on the big budget Charlize theron picture scheduled for release in 2013.

that’s the story as seen from the media seats and if i have inherited any of my namesake grandmother’s psychic ability then i predict 2012 will go down in history as the year local film found its stride and started racing towards being an international buzzword when it comes to outstanding African cinema.

This year the spirit of the industry has discovered its movie stars, coaxed incredible scenes out of its actors, inspired both its new and old directors and given screenwriters the freedom to write local stories worth much more than their weight in funding.

This is the beginning and anyone who has been sitting on the sidelines gazing in awe at actresses like Lynn Strydom and Jade Coury, marveling at the diversity of David Ndjavera, envying the writing of Sophie Kabongo, moved by the musicality of Steffen List or impressed by the production design and cinematography of Pirouz Ghayouri or Alexander hornisch best use the December downtime to invest in critically watching films in order to make the caliber of films that can get in on 2013’s lights, camera and action.

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