Local Actors Ask Foreign Exposure

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By Surihe Gaomas SWAKOPMUND Young local film actors are calling for a platform from which they can advertise their skills and talents so that they can easily reap the benefits when foreign filmmakers solicit their expertise locally. Although Namibia’s film industry is expanding, there is growing sentiment that there is a need to expose local talent internationally. This is exactly what happened when a German filming company Polyphon from Hamburg visited Swakopmund recently to shoot the film “Bushman’s Paradise.” For 24-year-old Mweneni Shigweda this was a lucky break to act for the very first time in a foreign movie. In an interview with New Era, the young actress who has been in the movie industry since 1998, said that she was fortunate enough to get a part in the film due to contacts and her fluency in German, which was one of the main requirements. “We don’t have any Namibian professionals involved in acting as well as technical expertise,” said Shigweda who is acting the role of the charismatic African maid ‘Nuela’ in the movie. She said the main challenge for potential actors who had never had the chance to join the industry is that there is no database in which they can advertise themselves. “There is no platform on which actors can be approached. The Film Commission of Namibia should therefore look into having such a database, otherwise actors are losing out,” she explained, adding that in cases where international filmmakers are looking for extras or Namibians who can act in some parts, if there were a database they could be contacted to play those parts. The last part of the German movie was shot at the Swakopmund Cemetery where one could see the entire film crew hard at work finishing off the soapie. Sitting on the benches were three Herero women adorned in traditional attire who were all too happy to be acting for the very first time. “It’s very wonderful to be here, because we never thought that we would have such an opportunity,” said Mbai Utjii with a delightful expression on her face. The other two actors were Meriam Haimene and Melba Hambeka. Setting the mood of the burial at the cemetery was a group of singers from the Namibian Mascato Youth Choir. It became apparent that as foreign filming companies show an immense interest in shooting their movies against the backdrop of the attractive landscape of Namibia, locals themselves can reap the benefits of exposing themselves in the expanding industry as well. This was exactly the case for local radio broadcaster for Special Programmes of the Otjiherero Service Alex Kaputu who was acting out the role of the priest at the funeral scene. As a traditional man that only believes in the traditional Holy Fire of his culture, this was the first time for him to act the role of a pastor. “This is a big contrast for me, but very interesting at the same time,” said Kaputu who had experience in doing radio dramas as well. He noted that at a later stage he would like to venture into the acting business on a full-time basis. “I would like to branch off later in this field because it has always been my dream to become a local film star. Before independence there were no opportunities and it’s now only afterwards that one gets such opportunities to do something like this,” he added. Not only has international movies cast in Namibia reaped benefits for the film actors, it has also had economic spin-offs for the communities in which the scenes are shot. One such project headed by Shahid Abrahams is that of a group of 51 children from the Grunau Immnuel Youth Hostel. Under his leadership, Abrahams sought the much needed funding of N$26 000 from the Polyphon Film Industry in order to provide food and clothing to the poverty stricken children. “I am a father of five children myself and if I see other children suffering in the small community of the Karas region it’s disheartening …. I just hate to see children suffer,” said Abrahams, who’s also assistant to the Film Set Manager Claude Vriessenhausen. The donated money will also go towards buying mattresses, winter clothes and blankets for these children. After the two and a half months of shooting in the country, the Hamburg Polyphon film crew is setting off for home. Hopefully with a product that portrays the skills and talents of local Namibians to the outside world.