It is without a doubt that the Namibian film industry has made great strides in terms of producing remarkable movies over the years and winning awards internationally.
But this industry is always overlooked when it comes to funding, which is a sight for saw eyes as the potential it has is massive to help the economy, especially during this pandemic. The film industry alone brings jobs, revenue, and related infrastructure development, tourism, thus providing an immediate boost to the local economy all in one.
Speaking to Entertainment Now! Joel Haikali who is a director, film producer and writer said film and audiovisual remain the only profession in the country and the world that has “so many benefits and caters to a lot of sectors all at once”.
“You need a location which needs to be paid, you need people to build structures, you need music, designers for clothing, extras and actors. When a story is told about the Kavango river or the dunes at the coast, it in turn promotes the country as a whole as a tourist destination.”
Haikali feels it is a mistake that the film industry has been neglected, the least supported and incentivised. “It’s about time we look at the industry as an ecosystem and a value chain. When you have this sector functioning you will have jumpstarted the economy, you will be pushing your culture, you pushing your creative expression, you pushing all the other industries to work together.”
Florian Schott believes priorities in politics shifted amidst the pandemic. He thinks it’s unlikely that the Namibia Film Commission (NFC) will have more funds available for films this year. “They do what they can but of course in the current situation film is not really a priority for the government.
So I don’t think the situation is going to get better this year in terms of funding,” he stressed.
The director of Baxu and the Giants said he is hopeful for the Namibian film industry because of streaming channels such as Netflix taking notice. ‘’Platforms such as these are an opportunity not only to screen at some festivals but you can literally bring your film directly to 200 million people. If we get a chance to tap into that market – and Baxu and the Giants being bought by Netflix is, of course, the first step – the future looks bright for Namibian film,” he explained.
Schott has not slowed down during the pandemic as he was busy directing a TV series under relatively normal conditions in Germany last year. “I am lucky to be able to work not only in Namibia but also in Europe. I’m aware that this is a privilege that many Namibian filmmakers don’t have so I’m trying to do what I can to also help other filmmakers get their projects off the ground,” he ended.
Novelist, director, producer Jenny Kandenge feels that she can’t really rate where Namibia is at the moment compared to other African countries but feels “we moving in the right direction”.
“We have some really good stories and even quality-wise the movies are great. I think if filmmakers marketed and distributed their films a bit more it would help with putting us on the map.”
“All I can say is that I hope it does. I think right now the main focus is how we can keep the film industry alive during the pandemic. But I’ve seen filmmakers make films without the help of the film commission. There are so many other funding platforms, relying only on NFC won’t work. The NFC does more than just production funding,” she expressed.
Haikali further said that all the practitioners in the audio-visual, music videos, animation and films have proven that they have the talent. ‘’The only issue is there is no favourable policy with no incentive to thrive. In the world where we begin to realize that mining is bad for the industries, is very expensive to explore; if you look at how much they spend on environmental assessment, which is millions they have to spend and later find out it’s not good for the environment. If they could give 0.1% towards the creative space not only will Namibia will be known to the world, but our languages will be out, but also have products that can generate and bring in foreign currency that is needed at this point,” he concluded.
Some have said a strong economy depends on a creative economy, which all in all starts with a story.