The Minister of ICT, Hon. Dr Peya Mushelenga led a high-level government delegation to a multi-million dollar international film production on Monday, 13 September 2021, currently filming at the coast, a first since the advent of Covid-19. The aim of the visit was to expose the leadership and multi-sectoral stakeholder agencies to the economic impact of foreign productions in Namibia.
According to Namibian Co-Producer and Facilitator of the production, Joel Haikali of Joe Vision Production who was instrumental in bringing the international production to Namibia, over 1644 Namibians are employed on the production in front and behind the camera. This includes award-winning actor Girley Jazama, who plays the female lead alongside German actor Leonard Scheicher. He further indicated that it took two years of pitching against South Africa to convince German executive producers to pick Namibia as a location.
Haikali highlighted the challenges faced by local facilitators to attract more foreign investment into the sector with a lack of incentives and beneficiations to investors. He further indicated a need to find best collaborative models amongst the various Government agencies to smoothen processes and ensure that most of the budget spent remains in Namibia and not in South Africa as has largely been the case for years.
The challenges on the ground re-emphasized the need for the creative industry to be acknowledged as an economic contributor with numerous spin offs to other industries such as hospitality, transport, cultural SMEs and much needed employment creation.
Therefore, it is crucial to fast-track industry incentive packages for foreign and local investors as well as local industry players.
The Director and Author of the Film, Lars Kraume and Executive Producer Thomas Kufus both received the delegation and highlighted their excitement on filming in the country. While better offers were received from German and South African studios, they were convinced that filming on location in Namibia would benefit the type of story they are telling. The film is funded through German subsidies and other private investors to the tune of N$130 Million.
After visiting the film set and warehouses of the production, Dr Mushelenga acknowledged that the visit gave a clearer picture of the foreign direct investment attracted to the country by film industry players and the need for the government to look critically into this sector. “The importance of collaboration to ensure that we have incentives for foreign producers cannot be overemphasized. Our young people need employment and after today with what I have seen, I am more than convinced that this sector can alleviate unemployment and bring development to our country”, he said.
UNESCO estimates that the Creative Industries globally generate about USD 2.3 trillion while providing 30 million direct employment opportunities. In Africa, this translates to about 58 billion dollars of which only 5 billion is directly generated by the film industry because of its under development and lack of facilities and subsidies. The Deputy Minister of industrialization, Trade and SME Development, Verna Sinimbo stated that her Ministry has already forwarded the Cultural & Creative Industries sectoral draft to the office of the Attorney General for review and with the hope that its realization will help attract more film investment to the country.
Deputy Minister of Education Arts & Culture, Faustina Caley called for continuous collective collaboration between the different stakeholders for further investment in youth development and training. Her Ministry is working together with the National Arts Council in that regard.
The Erongo Governor, Neville Itope said his office is open for engagement and was happy to have witnessed many young Namibians included on the production.
Swakopmund Mayor, Councillor Louisa Kativa indicated that the Council will find ways to work with industry players and assist with preservation of props used on set for Namibia to have a collection that can be used in future productions. She indicated that the Council would investigate and see how it can assist with storage facilities for this purpose.
Namibia Film Commission’s Board Chairperson Abius Akwaake highlighted Namibia’s competitiveness as a film destination with films such as The Mummy, Mad Max, Flight of the Phoenix filmed on location in Namibia. However, with countries like South Africa, Morocco, Kenya, and Rwanda offering incentives to foreign producers, Namibia can anticipate a significant drop in attracting film investment. Therefore, deliberate efforts must go into fast tracking incentives and repositioning the country as the film destination of choice in Africa.
The production commenced on 30th August and will be filmed in the Erongo, Otjozondjupa and /Khomas regions, until October 2021.
This work of fiction follows a young German anthropologist on a study mission in the midst of a war, through the then Deutsch Süd West Afrika, in an attempt to disprove the race theory. His journey becomes one of trying to find a young Herero woman he met in Berlin, during a colonial exhibition.