Nam film industry needs incentives to grow

By Theresia Tjihenuna
April 2013
Other Articles
Government incentives to the local film industry could just be what the latter needs to boost its long stagnant status if it is to keep up with the continent’s best film productions.

The Namibia Film Commission (NFC) board member, Obed Emvula says achieving big-scale productions in Namibia still remains a major challenge due to limited resources. Thus, Emvula is of the opinion that the industry would truly benefit from Government initiated incentives.

NFC was established through Act 6 of Parliament in 2000, under the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. The organisation’s Amendment Act of 2012 provide for the objectives, powers and functions of the commission including establishing a Film and Video Development Fund. It also regulates activities relating to film production, development and promotion of Namibia’s film industry.

According to Emvula, local film production companies have been seeking incentives through the film commission since its inception. But due to the nature of the business, they strive to spend their money more efficiently.

“Film production is a very expensive affair. Big productions can spend up to billions of dollars just to produce a movie, other expenses aside including post-production activities such as marketing it. This is why it is important for a country to initiate incentives for the entertainment industry,” he stresses.

In Emvula’s view, film productions could only make a difference if the Government availed tax refunds and discounts for service providers and suppliers. Namibia’s film industry lacks a strong corporate support system for arts and entertainment. Film projects rarely receive sponsorship because the local market is too small to make any meaningful investment, Emvula laments.

“We are currently busy looking into how we could operate the same way countries with huge markets such as the US, Canada, etc, do seeing as they have incentive programmes. The major challenge local upcoming filmmakers undergo is penetrating the industry and that can be attributed to the lack of Government incentives, hence the low amount of local quality productions,” Emvula points out, adding, “Local production companies do not really produce films that support culture among Namibians, aside from the lack of distribution channels for local movies.”

The other challenge affecting local quality film production is the lack of a data base for Namibian filmmakers. If it is not recorded by the NFC, attracting major productions into Namibia and ensuring good labour relations with local crews become a struggle, Emvula states.

Despite all odds, the industry has managed to produce homemade screen productions.
In 2011, NFC sponsored short films through the Short Film Project. The project aims to unearth, nurture and promote local film producers and screen writers by bringing their material to the audience.

“Six out of the seven NFC sponsored short films through the 2011/12 Short Film Project season are doing very well in the international and African film markets,” he beams, adding, “Apart from being invited to the African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York last year, the short films won numerous awards at the local Film and Theatre Awards last November.”

One of the award winning films is titled, ‘Try’. It is a short film directed by Namibia’s own Joel Haikali. It received five awards last year while Tim Huebschle’s ‘Dead River’ bagged four awards as Oshosheni Hiveluah’s ‘100 Bucks’ walked away with the Audience Choice Award.

“Although 2012 was a successful year for us, we are confident that more accolades will follow in future. ‘Try’ and ‘Dead River’ were nominated to compete in the category of Best Short Film on the Continent at the Luxor African Film Festival in Egypt mid-last month,” says an optimistic Emvula.

He and his team are currently amending the Namibia Film Commission Amendment Act of 2012 to better suit the industry needs. He is optimistic that the recently established film school at the Polytechnic of Namibia (PoN) will help ensure that local film talents are not wasted but skillfully nourished to grow the industry.

Notably, Emvula highlights, there’s been an increase in the number of film production companies over the years, as more and more raw talents emerge. Filmmakers also keep brainstorming for new ideas to make more exciting films, he says.

The commission has also been working with the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) to market Namibia to international filmmakers as an exceptional filmmaking destination. As a great film production destination, Namibia has a total of 144 productions ranging from feature films, documentaries, commercials and television films, which were produced in the country during the 2011/12 financial year.

“These productions generated the much needed foreign currency and thus provided employment to local citizens and made a significant contribution to the tourism sector as well as the economy as a whole. The link between international film productions and tourism industry is that once foreign crews get into the country to shoot their films, they use their free time to explore the country for pleasure and/or business,” Emvula explains.

“There are a lot of implementations currently taking place. In the next two or three years, all will be in place, which will harmonise the film industry and hopefully make it a success a la South Africa and Nigeria,” he concludes. PF