Coming of Age
Published: Flamingo Magazine, April 2009
Eighteen marks the coming of age of a young person in most cultures. But what does it mean for a nation? Windhoek, Namibia’s capital is surely a central place to feel the pulse of the country’s young democracy. Three Namibian film-makers explored this question in a fictional and creative way by producing short films based on the theme: 18 Years in Windhoek.
Invited guests from the Namibian Embassy in Berlin had the exclusive privilege to preview the short films at a special screening in February 2009 on the fringes of the Berlinale, Berlin’s International Film Festival. About 50 selected VIPs and honourable guests joined the newly appointed Namibian Ambassador, Neville Gertze, and Berlin parliamentarian and director of the cultural non-profit organisation p.art.ners, Oliver Schruoffeneger, in the screening, which was jointly organised by the Namibian Embassy and p.art.ners berlin-windhoek. Tim Huebschle, the Namibian director of one of the films, Rider without a Horse, was the guest of honour. After the films the public had the opportunity to discuss the films and related questions with him. This ended in a lively discussion about the necessity of taking up historical issues in today’s Namibia.
The films are the result of the first-ever Namibian short-film competition, initiated by the Wild Cinema Windhoek International Film Festival and funded by p.art.ners berlin-windhoek. The competition forms part of the ‘shared experiences’ cultural exchange project, which was launched by p.art.ners berlin-windhoek in 2007. The organisation was founded as a private initiative of renowned Namibian artist Imke Rust and Berlin parliamentarian Oliver Schruoffeneger, to culturally enhance the city partnership between Berlin and Windhoek. In close collaboration with Namibian and Berlin-based artists, organisations and cultural projects, p.art.ners conceptualises, produces and presents projects that span a wide variety of genres, from the visual arts, music, theatre and film to dance, both in Namibia and Germany.
A year ago, at the Wild Cinema Windhoek International Film Festival, the competition was launched and film-makers were invited to submit scripts of their ideas for short films. A jury, comprising professional and respected members of the Namibian and Berlin film industry, selected the three best scripts to receive funding of N$50 000.00 each for their production costs. The film-makers also received an intensive workshop and one-on-one session with the renowned South African script doctor, Hofmeyr Scholz. In December 2008, after the completion of the films and another round of judging, the overall winner for the best short film was announced to the media. Tim Huebschle, with his film Rider without a Horse, walked away with the honours and a free trip to attend the Berlinale Film Festival in February 2009, courtesy of p.art.ners berlin-windhoek and sponsors Air Namibia, Kalahari Sands Hotel & Casino, Stiftung Lotto and Der Tagesspiegel.
Joel Haikali, the maker of the runner-up film Differences, was invited to attend the prestigious Berlinale Talent Campus 2009, a workshop for upcoming international film-makers. This was a valuable opportunity for him to establish contacts in the international film community and to discuss ideas and films with other filmmakers. Although this invitation came directly from the Talent Campus organisers, based on the p.art.ners-funded film Differences, p.art.ners also assisted him with his travelling costs.
The successful completion of this competition is another milestone for the WCFF organisers, as for the first time artists received substantial support for fictional work, instead of documentary film-making, and could thus let their creative ideas reign freely. While all three film-makers set out to explore the changes since Namibia’s independence in 1990, they came up with three very different results, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic but always personal and at the same time universal.
The winning story Rider without a Horse revolves around the Reiter (German: the Rider) of the Equestrian Monument in Windhoek – one of Namibia’s most prominent historical monuments from the colonial era – coming to life and being confronted with his own historic and political identity. In a funny yet serious tale, the Reiter re-awakens in a changed world, stumbles on the 18th Independence Day celebrations in the nation’s capital, and is confronted by modern dilemmas.
In Differences Joel Haikali approached the theme with questions about our real and imagined differences as human beings. The idyllic lives of three meticulous Windhoek office workers – one black, one coloured, one white – are shattered, when they suddenly wake up in bed with their colleague’s wife next to them. This satiric short film challenges the social reality of segregation based on alleged cultural, racial and ethnic differences, which Namibian society still faces 18 years after independence.
The third film, The Shop by Perivi Katjavivi, is a poignant look at independent Namibia from street level up, as the same Windhoek convenience shop with the same white shop assistant is depicted during three different periods of independent Namibia. At the core the film explores our inability to communicate effectively as a society, but also reflects the current economic difficulties with escalating food prices and social deprivation.
All three films will be premiered officially at the Official Red Carpet Extravaganza of the 2009 Wild Cinema Windhoek International Film Festival on 16 April 2009, 19:00 at the DHPS Aula in Windhoek. For further information please see http://www.wildcinema.org or www.berlin-windhoek.org as well as www.berlinale-talentcampus.de/campus/talent/joel-haikali/profile?pos.
(c) Imke Rust is a Namibian artist and writer and the co-founder and director of p.art.ners berlin-windhoek.