The inadequate government funding for local content production and the further development of the film sector is the biggest hurdle stopping or slowing down the Namibian Film Commission in achieving its mandate.
The commission’s CEO, Florence Haifene, said one of the ways to address the issue is to increase funding to the NFC by the government to carry out its mandate, which is to support and develop the local film industry.
“The NFC has made great strides with its current budget allocation; however, better budgets will assist in tripling our efforts with more targeted development for the different filmmaker groups. Some are upcoming and others are quite established,” shared Haifene.
She added that bigger budgets would mean more support towards animation, TV and web series as well as indigenous low budget films, while support would be earmarked for filmmakers operating in the 14 regions of the country, through the establishment of film hubs, which would be a one-stop-shop for any creative within the film space.
“This content would then have its mini-festivals in these regions, which will potentially raise the profile of the film sector and what it would contribute to regional development. A bigger budget will further allow us to be able to have a Namibian International Film Festival, something which we have seen a need for the industry,” stated Haifene.
In terms of international exposure, she said the country’s film locations were aggressively marketed in the past until 2018 through international locations magazines and online platforms as well as the attendance of international festivals, which allowed it to enjoy big foreign production’s attention.
“The major Oscar wins of the film Mad Max: The Fury Road in 2016, the biggest big-budget film shot on location, also greatly advanced the country’s ratings as a great film location,” recalled Haifene.
Since 2018, the marketing budget had tremendously reduced, which did not allow for much marketing, although the commission still enjoyed the spin-offs until Covid-19 occurred last year.
Producer, writer and director Joel Haikali said film remains the only profession in the country and the world with “so many benefits and caters to a lot of sectors all at once”.
“You need a location, which needs to be paid for; you need people to build structures, and 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 are pushing your creative expression; you are 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 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 streaming channels such as Netflix taking notice.
“Platforms such as these are an opportunity not only to screen at some festivals but you can 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.