By Frederick Philander
No money was spared by the Namibian Film Commission (NFC) to get an eight-member Namibian delegation to Hollywood for last night’s premiere of the film, Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation.
The NFC also financed the sixteenth annual PAFF Opening Night Gala of the festival.
The film, directed by American Charles Burnett, opened as a selected screening to an 800-strong audience at the Art Directors Guild of America on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles last night.
One of the popular medical television series, Grey’s Anatomy’s lead actors, Isaiah Washington, hosted the Namibian premiere of the film at the Pan African Film Festival which has over the years yielded a number of Oscar winning films. Washington had been to Namibia two years ago to shoot a film in the south of the country.
“We are going to Los Angeles with high expectations for the Namibian film to do well,” said the executive producer of Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation, Uazuva Kaumbi, before his departure for the States this week.
Kaumbi, the three main Namibian actors in the movie, a member of the executive committee of PACON and a NFC commissioner left on Tuesday for the film festival.
“It is logical that the three Namibian actors, Joel Haikali, Obed Emvula and Chris Apollus should be present at the premiere of our film,” said Kaumbi excitedly.
Vickson Hangula went along to represent the Namibian Film Commission and Maureen Kinda is representing PACON.
“Initially Dr Sam Nujoma, whose life is portrayed in the film, was invited to attend the premiere, but due to circumstances beyond our control this could not materialise. However, we are well represented, thanks to the Namibian Film Commission. If taken into consideration, our film has won three awards at the Malaysian International Film Festival last year anything is possible at this august American film festival. Ask all Namibians to hold thumbs for the film,” Kaumbi, who could not say when the film will be screened in Namibia, said.
He would not be drawn into commenting on speculation doing the rounds in the capital that the film’s route to open at this festival was aimed to attract Oscar nominations in the same way and route that the South African Oscar-winning film, Tsotsi, went. Nor was he able to divulge the amount of money that was invested to have the film premiered at the festival.
The category winners of all participating films at the festival will be announced on February 18.
The Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) Opening Night Gala is the official start to the festibal. Always a star-studded red carpet affair, the Opening Night Gala is attended by Hollywood celebrities, elected officials, African dignitaries, civic and community leaders, and filmmakers.
“Taking into account that Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation, will be competing against many other films from around the world at the festival, I am hopeful that it will win some acclaim. It would be good for the Namibian Film Commission’s efforts to promote the film internationally, as well as for the local film industry,” said film commissioner, Vickson Hangula, before they left on Tuesday.
The film stars American actors Carl Lumbly, Danny Glover as well as Namibian actors Joel Haikali, Obed Emvula and Chris Apollus. The film depicts the long struggle waged by the people of Namibia for their independence that was ultimately won with the help of Cuban military volunteers fighting in Angola.
The director Charles Burnett’s first film, Killer of Sheep (1977), was declared a “national treasure” by the Library of Congress. It was among the first 50 films placed in the National Film Registry because of its significance. The Vicksburg, Mississippi native moved to Los Angeles at an early age. He received a MFA from UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film & Television. Killer of Sheep, Burnett’s UCLA thesis film, was expanded into his first feature. He was the director, producer, writer, cinematographer and editor.
Burnett’s next film will be The Man in a Basket starring Carl Lumbly and Delroy Lindo with Martin Scorsese and Margaret Bodde as