Charges of Racism in Local Movie Industry

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK A leading Namibian film company facilitating most international film shoots in the country was yesterday accused of racism in its appointment of local staff recruited as support acts and crew for foreign movies. The owner of Namib Films, Guy Knockles, was verbally and angrily confronted by freelance assistant film director and casting director, Glendyrr Bailey, on the second and last day of a consultative meeting held between the government and local filmmakers. “It is generally known that Namib Films only gives whites work on a preferential basis in international films being shot in the country, be it technically or otherwise. Presently, there are Zimbabweans working on an international film, titled BC 10 000, at the coast, but I cannot get a job,” Bailey fumed during question time after Guy Knockles delivered a presentation on promoting Namibia as an ideal film location. Bailey further claimed that she was sent from Pontius to Pilate in her desperate efforts to get employment on this particular film. “I was told by the film company that I had to apply in South Africa for a job on a film that is being shot in Namibia. I packed my things and went to Cape Town and applied from there for a job in my motherland, but to no avail. To cut a long story short, I was refused. That is why I pose the question why Namib Films prefers appointing only whites to these lucrative films being shot in Namibia,” she stated. Guy Knockles defended his company informing the meeting that he had nothing to do with the recruitment of local staff for BC10 000. “We are not a service provider, but only the protector of the Namibian environment in which the Hollywood film is being shot. This is a total misconception that I am hearing of now,” Knockles, an executive member of the Board of the Filmmakers Association of Namibia (FAN), said. Blowing his own trumpet during his presentation, Knockles claimed that his company has been in the forefront of marketing Namibia in the international film industry and bringing foreign productions to the country. “We have been providing visiting producers with a first class service they expect and through this service business has grown out of necessity. Through the ongoing process of personal contacts with foreign producers and marketing, Namib Films has become an established entity in the international film industry. We have many connections with many Hollywood studios and a large number of producers world-wide,” he said. The former South African film producer claimed that over the past six years, his company had attracted over eighty international films to Namibia, culminating in an approximate foreign investment of N$500 million. “We all know the attention Namibia received when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were here, small spin-offs what foreign films can do for this country – it assists with the economic growth of the country. To achieve this, a local service provider must have extensive knowledge of the film industry as well as the new trends happening in the industry worldwide,” he argued. He described a rather bleak outlook about the possibilities of Namibia being able to provide a full crew for an international film set. “Namibia has a wealth of artisans to build the sets and a labour force to do the physical work, but we are very thin on the ground when it comes to positions such as art directors, set dressers, prop masters, cameramen, soundmen. But until the local crews get to work on big pictures, we will not progress to the next level, providing a full crew for an international film,” Knockles said. He also warned Namibians to be on their guard for South African companies using this country as their backyard. “They should be stopped from coming to Namibia, setting up book companies and then using these companies to service international films in Namibia. This has a negative effect on the local industry and general economy of the country. Very few of these companies pay tax as they remove most of the funds back to South Africa at the end of the production,” he revealed. Knockles recommended Namibia set up co-production treaties with other countries. “Double taxation agreements between countries makes the way easier for foreign films and of course the reclaiming of VAT on zero-rated services is a prime issue. This is what Namibia should be doing to attract international films to our shores. Imagine where we would have been if Namibia had offered tax rebates, subsidies and had co-production treaties in place,” he urged. On a more positive note, Knockles’ assessment of the film industry is that the service industry is fairly healthy. “But we need to keep it growing by nurturing our assets and looking after our crews by introducing film-friendly legislation, tax rebates, etc., and this way we will keep the foreign films coming to Namibia. I see nothing but good for Namibia coming out of the film industry in the future,” he concluded.