Long Wait for Namibian Film Worthwhile

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A Movie review

By Frederick B Philander

I AM convinced that every other worthy newspaper critic, who attended the press preview of the feature film, Namibia: The Liberation Struggle, on Wednesday evening had a rare historic film treat and insight of significant value to the nation.

This movie is indeed yielding the expected authenticity of the Namibian struggle it was supposed to deliver from script writing (a bit shallow), acting, directing and exceptionally high quality cinematography.

Little wonder the two-and-a-half-hour film was acclaimed, be it only for its visual impact, at the recently held Pan African International Film Festival in Los Angeles as well as the Kuala Lumpur International Film Festival.

A supposed stranger to the Namibian situation entrusted to capture the country’s long drawn-out liberation struggle with many limitations demanded quite a lot of creativity. In this respect the American film director did exactly that, capturing the ethos, the pain, the historic moments and the misery of the Namibian people in a very pleasing and satisfying creative manner.

What Namibians must understand the scriptwriter used his creative freedom to create additional characters for the flow of the story, considered by some as being flimsy in content. What a pot of hogwash. If only such persons had known the grueling process this film had been subjected to, such sceptics will have another opinion.

What I particularly liked about the first part of the movie was the ample and apt use of the vastness and open spaces of the country. This to my mind brought to the fore and emphasised the vulnerability of the people against a historic dominating colonialist force of unmatched proportions.

Judging by the exceptional viewing potential (in all probability for ordinary Namibians), entertainment value and production quality of the film, I would like to think the Namibian film industry has been put on an irreversible path of future greatness, thanks to the far-sightedness of the producers, PACON, for tackling the topic.

Having had to compete with marketable American actors Carl Lumbly and Danny Glover, I think the Namibian secondary actors and even those in cameo parts (whom I could recognise) acquitted themselves very well in this historic cinematic saga.

To me, young Namibian actor (and filmmaker) Joel Haikali stood out above the rest of the Namibian actors and even compared exceptionally favourably with the more known and experienced American actors as the young protagonist, Sam Nujoma.

Haikali, with his innocent-looking and photogenic expressionistic projections, indeed brought serenity, restfulness and honesty to his character in a way I have not seen in a very long time in the Namibian industry nor anywhere else. In him I think the industry has discovered a natural, national acting jewel that needs to be nurtured and treasured.

I don’t think Namibia was shamed by actors Obed Mvula, Chrisjan Appolus, Theresa Kahangoro, Lazarus Jacobs and Freddy Frewer in their respective roles, They performed with verve above average in their respective smaller talking character portrayals.

The cameo-part actors in speaking roles I recognised in the film also made a satisfactory impression. Though mostly in flash appearance, their presence contributed well towards the overall whole of the film.

I refer in particular to newcomer actor, Leon Husselman, (a rogue South African police officer), David Ndjavera (as a tribal elder), Armas Shivute (a treacherous character in the struggle), Pandu (an uncle of Nujoma), Botha Ellis (a special branch officer), Albert Rickerts (a violent white South African policeman), Laurinda Olivier-Sampson and Tania Terblanche.

This time around Namibian actors were not only used as extras like in most international films having been shot in Namibia, but in talking roles, something sort of out of the ordinary. Let’s hope this tendency will continue in all future international films to be shot in the country.

In my view Lumbly as Nujoma gradually grew in his role from a rather timid character to the powerful and aggressive leader of the Namibian struggle in the film. At times his make-up came across rather superfluous and unconvincing.

What is also interesting about the film is the many white actors the producers could recruit for the film, albeit South Africans. Without them the authenticity of the film would have been lost.

The Namibian performing art sector is still struggling getting white Namibians into stage and screen productions, a real pity.

Action movie lovers will probably enjoy the more action-filled and violent second part of the movie more because of the lots of on screen skirmishes between the PLAN fighters and the South African war machine.

The question is was it worth the wait for the film to be released and screened only now after it had been doing the international rounds for quite some time? The answer is a qualified, YES.

So, come on Namibians, go feast yourselves in droves on the movie as from this Sunday at the National Theatre of Namibia. This, I am convinced, is only the beginning of the long-awaited era focussing on our own film stories.

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