Namibia: Where Others Wavered ... the Filming of an Epic Movie on the Life of Former President Sam Nujoma and the Country's Liberation Struggle Has Just Been Completed (See NA, Nov 2003). Uazuva Kuambi, the Executive Producer, Reports on How It All Came about and the Obstacles His Production Team Encountered

By Kuambi, Uazuva | New African, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Namibia: Where Others Wavered ... the Filming of an Epic Movie on the Life of Former President Sam Nujoma and the Country's Liberation Struggle Has Just Been Completed (See NA, Nov 2003). Uazuva Kuambi, the Executive Producer, Reports on How It All Came about and the Obstacles His Production Team Encountered


Kuambi, Uazuva, New African


"It's a wrap!" These were the words that the crew and cast had been waiting for on Day 85 of principal photography. Then, in the early, chilly hours of 6 September (at 4am to be exact), the African-American film writer/director, Charles Burnett, said it loud and clear, after what felt like a million takes of the last shot. "Thank you, guys. It's a wrap!" There was a frenzy of excitement, and the champagne flowed like the mighty waters of the Zambezi River.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

That was the crowning moment for the over-US$15m feature film, on the life of former President Sam Nujoma and Namibia's liberation struggle, that is being produced by the Pan Afrikan Centre of Namibia (PACON).

The film is an epic story of a man and the people of his country winning their independence despite overwhelming odds. Namibians were not just fighting the illegal occupation by apartheid South Africa, they were also fighting indirectly superpowers like the USA, France, Britain and Germany that were supporting South Africa's illegal hold on the then South West Africa (now Namibia).

The film was conceptualised over four years ago when I (then PACON chairperson) mentioned to President Nujoma, just before the launch of his autobiography, Where Others Wavered (published by the UK-based PANAF Books), that value would be added to the book by adapting it for screenplay. The idea of the film was then adopted as a PACON project. Soon two committees, (political and technical) were set up, and the ball started rolling.

The project was officially launched by President Nujoma on 21 September 2001 (Kwame Nkrumah's birthday). Soon after, the then Nigerian high commissioner to Namibia, Bagudu Hirse, introduced me to Steve Gukas, a London-based Nigerian filmmaker, and the two of us caught on like a thatched roof on fire.

Gukas assisted with the drafting of the business plan and went on to become one of the two producers for the film, the other being Abius Akwaake, the Namibian filmmaker. In April 2003, the Technical Committee was converted into the producing unit headed by me as executive producer.

The script went through various painstaking phases of development, starting with the Namibian scriptwriter Vickson Hangula, winner of the Golden Pen Award. His draft was refined further by Nigerian scriptwriter and M-Net New Direction Award winner, Femi Kayode. The refined script was sent to the agents of several directors, and when Charles Burnett read it, not only did he show tremendous interest in directing the movie, but also offered to re-write the script. And so Burnett was hired as scriptwriter and director. After more than six months of intense cross-Atlantic emails, discussing the treatment and the first draft, the script was ready and pre-production started in February this year.

The film boasts Hollywood big name stars such as Danny Glover and Carl Lumbly. Glover plays the fictitious role of a spiritual leader called Father Elias, while Lumbly plays the main role of Sam Nujoma from the age of 27 years. There are also actors from Namibia, the leading ones being Crisjan Appolus, Obed Emvula, Botha Ellis, Theressa Kahorongo, Tia Haoses and Johanna Shikongo. Other actors came from South Africa, mostly for the roles of the apartheid South African government and military officials. Crowning the pan-African galaxy of stars were actors from Zambia and Ghana.

The crew was equally pan-African in composition, with people from the Diaspora in the USA, South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cameroon, and obviously the largest contingent coming from Namibia. This was a great experience, but it was also the source of quite a bit of internal conflict because of the differences in experience, skills, work ethic, cultures, and various other factors.

The actual budget of the film was well over $15m. The Namibia Film Commission (NFC), a statutory film funding agency of the Namibian government, agreed to contribute about $10m towards the film, making it the largest financial partner. …

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